The Ministry of Local Affairs has announced the launch a dedicated Environmental Police Unit.
Speaking yesterday, the Minister of Local Affairs, Riadh Mouakher announced the launch of the new Unit to police and investigate breaches of environmental law and pollution on Jawhara FM.
The minister stated that “the Ministry of Local Affairs will work on implementing the new law, which was approved by the Assembly of People’s Representatives (ARP) concerning the increase of the price of fines for breaches of environmental law”, stressing that, in future, breaches of environmental law would be regarded as criminal offences.
Speaking to Tunisia Live, President of environmental pressure group, SOS Biaa, Morched Garbouj said that “There won’t be a commitment to this project. In order to have an environmental police, there should be radical changes in the structures in charge of managing the, (country’s) environmental strategies.”
Garbouj continued, “Tunisian Municipalities are not responsible for managing the litter. Therefore we need to have municipalities that have a budget and a clear plan, and we need to have a waste strategy.” Garbouj pointed out that the delays in municipal elections mean that real devolution of power to municipal government has yet to happen. The proposed date for municipal elections is 2018.
Garbouj believed that “The biggest offender is the government, by throwing waste and contaminated water into the Gulf of Tunis (Rades, Zahra, Hammam Lif) discharged by the National Office for Sanitation (ONAS) plus the landfill in Borj Chakir.” Garbouj asked “Is the government going to fine ONAS, which means fining itself?”
“The National Agency of Environmental Protection (ANPE) existed for 28 years and it’s in reality an environmental police, which did nothing. That’s to say, that this project is a waste of money. It’s about fining the citizens and not the government.”
Garbouj also criticized the country’s industrial sector, who he said was a major source of pollution in Tunisia, discharging toxic waste without treatment into waterways and the sea. Tunisia has a chronic problem of mismanagement of waste.
Zaineb is a journalist in the Tunisia Live newsroom. She speaks Arabic, French and English.