A supplier of children’s items
A supplier of children’s items carries huge plastic packets of snacks, going to supply shop to shop to earn for his livelihood. Image Credit: Online

Islamabad: Pakistan’s Ministry of Climate Change has announced plans to make Islamabad a plastic bag-free city by August 2019.

Minister for Climate Change, Zartaj Gul Wazir, stated this during a recent National Assembly while sharing the government’s plans to prohibit single-use plastic bags in Islamabad by Pakistan’s Independence Day on August 14.

The plastic-free campaign would begin from the Ministry of Climate Change and government departments where a ban on single-use plastic bags and bottles would be introduced. The ministry has procured some 5,000 cotton bags for distribution among officials, parliamentarians and federal government employees to appraise them about the hazards of plastic pollution and discourage the excessive use of plastic bags. These cotton bags will also be distributed free of cost in weekly markets across the city, she said.

The ministry is also engaging students, media and civil society for an upcoming awareness campaign on the hazards of single-use plastic. This week, the Senate Subcommittee on Climate Change, headed by Senator Mushahid Hussain Syed, held a meeting with students and faculty members of COMSATS University to seek their support to make Islamabad plastic-free and a model city for the rest of Pakistan.

The plan to rid the environment of plastic would begin from the capital city — starting from the parliament building and then extending to government departments before being replicated in other cities. The committee is also working on finalising a landfill site for the proper disposal of garbage and waste. Manufacturers of plastic bags and other items would be encouraged to switch to environment-friendly alternatives such as paper or cloth bags.

What environmentalists are saying?

Talking to Gulf News, Mome Saleem, an Islamabad-based environmentalist, said the “process of banning plastic should be systematic and in a way that supports local industry to produce reusable bags and create green jobs.” Mome also stressed that the plastic ban should not remain confined to bags alone as “we must restrict the consumption and sale of all single-use plastics, such as plastic straws, cups, bottles, plates and more.”

A young climate activist, Fatima Anwar Sadozai, appreciated the government’s action to reduce plastic waste but feels that “August 2019 deadline is really far-fetched.”

Right now, “the focus should be on the implementation of the plastic-ban law and not the timeline. It’s OK even if it takes six months or a year to get rid of plastic. Besides enforcement of law, awareness among public is key to end plastic pollution,” said Fatima, project manager at Friends of Environment organisation.

Use of plastic bags banned in Hunza

Realising the human and environmental hazards, the use of plastic shopping bags was banned in Hunza, Gilgit-Baltistan, in April 2019, followed by awareness campaigns and distribution of cloth bags. Appreciating the Hunza residents, Adviser to prime minister on climate change Malek Amin Aslam, said the implementation was not possible without the active cooperation of local communities.

Quetta enforces ban on plastic bag

The ban on the sale and purchase of plastic bags was also recently enforced in Quetta, the capital of Balochistan. Sellers and manufacturers of plastic bags were given a deadline of two months to wrap up the businesses after which strict action was taken against them.

Polythene bags to be banned across Punjab

This week, the Chief Minister of Punjab Usman Buzdar declared a ban on polythene bags across Punjab, including in Lahore city. Meanwhile, the provincial government is also focusing on improving the city’s cleanliness and sanitation as well as speeding up work on a waste-to-energy project.

Plastic ban in Sindh

Last year in November, Sindh Cabinet announced to impose a phase-wise ban on use of polythene and plastic bags in the province, starting from Sukkur city.