By Daniel Laurence
Seychelles has put an immediate ban on the importation of balloons and their use on beaches while restrictions on their other uses, distributions and sales have been postponed to September, said a top environment official.
The decision to postpone some of the planned restrictions was taken on Wednesday in a virtual cabinet of minister’s meeting chaired by President Wavel Ramkalawan, due to concerns raised by merchants.
The director general of Waste Enforcement and Permit in the Ministry of Environment, Nanette Laure, told SNA on Thursday that “since the country went into restriction measures due to COVID-19, merchants have been claiming that their sales have gone down because of few gatherings. Therefore, we brought this concern forward for us to get at the decision.”
She said that if the situation persists the government would have to review the decision again after September.
Any forms of plastic, biodegradable, rubber balloons and those with toys will not be allowed in the country. However, balloons used for meteorological purposes are exempted from the ban.
Laure said that anyone not complying with the date set will be faced with a fixed penalty of SCR500 ($32) and if it is not paid the person will be liable to legal action including a fine not exceeding more than SCR20,000 ($1,285).
The ban on balloons was announced by President Ramkalawan last November.
Ramkalawan said that “we have noticed that balloons are being used more frequently at the beach. These are left behind and are washed away during high tides, and end up in the oceans, where they have a destructive impact on marine life.”
The island nation, an archipelago in the western Indian Ocean, has in the last few years imposed bans on several plastic items in a bid to further protect its environment. There is a ban on plastic bags, plastic utensils including cups, forks, Styrofoam takeaway boxes and plates since 2017. This was followed by a ban on single-use plastic straws in June 2019.