Zartaj appeals to join hands with government to eliminate polythene bags

Minister of State for Climate Change, Zartaj Gul Wazir on Friday called upon educational institutes and business community to join the government’s efforts to eliminate polythene bags in the country, which harm environment and the public health in many ways.

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“As long as people are not sensitized and warned of negative impacts of polythene bags on their health and environment and provided alternative bags in adequacy, they are unlikely to shun its use,” the state minister remarked in the context of the public awareness and sensitization event held here.

However, educational institutes and business communities should play their due part in making government’s anti-polythene bag drive successes by encouraging the masses to stop using polythene bags at all levels as responsible citizens, Zartaj Gul said.

She pointed out that various public awareness and outreach initiatives have been taken over last several weeks as a part of revival of the present government’s vision for Clean Green Pakistan and commitment towards banning of the polythene bags in its entirety.

“With enhanced understanding about devastating fall outs of the polythene bags on both environment and public health, People would respond to protect themselves and the environment then live in by cutting on use of the environmentally-damaging polythene bags,” Gul hoped.

The Ministry of Climate Change in support with the (Pakistan Environmental Protection Agency) Pak-EPA Islamabad city administration and trade unions organized the events for engaging the educational institutes in the war on polythene bags.

“While these polythene bags are non-biodegradable, they take around a hundred year to decompose. And, not getting completely out of our environment, these lead to a lot of waste that keeps amassing over the years and remain in the land and water bodies, which contributes to soil and water pollution woes,” the minister emphasized.

“Thus, initiatives have been ratcheted up to bring together and encourage all stakeholders including industrialists, representatives of businesses and trade organizations to back the incumbent government’s policy measures to rid our environment of plastic bags once for all,” Zartaj Gul remarked.

Since early last year, the Covid-19 virus has continued to hit the country, slowing down socio-economic activities, a period which unfortunately saw the return of the use of environmentally-devastating polythene bags with the plastic bag ban enforcement efforts gone into temporary hibernation, she added.

Zartaj Gul highlighted that while now with efforts regarding ban on polythene bags revived again in the capital city, all stakeholders including public, manufacturers and sellers are being approached at all levels to bring the use of the polythene bags to a complete halt forever.

Under the re-enforcement of the complete ban on polythene bags beginning from March, use of all polyethylene bags at any level would be liable to fine in the capital region of around 1.5 million people, she said.

“Anyone who is found using, selling or manufacturing the polythene bags would face a severe action in the shape of fines,” she warned, adding that all relevant government organizations have been directed to remain vigilant and fine anyone found in possession of the polythene bags.

From the next month, no one would be allowed to use, sell and manufacture single-use plastic bags at any level, said Syed Mujtaba Hussain, who is leading mass campaigns against polythene bags in the city and senior joint secretary of the climate change ministry.

The shopkeepers and customers alike to avoid using and selling plastic bags before March 1. In case of violation, the official said, an individual would be fined Rs5,000, a manufacturer Rs1,00,000 and a shopkeeper Rs10,000, the ministry official explained.

Addressing the event, a lead expert on plastic pollution and chemicals at the climate change ministry, Deputy Director Dr Zaigham Abbas, while addressing the event said that over 55 billion polythene bags are used in our country annually and the number is spiking rapidly.

He highlighted that the growing use of these polythene bags has become destructive for environment and public health, chocking our water and sewerage networks, making the neighborhoods overflowing with sewerage water.

“However, getting rid of use of polythene bags is inevitable for environmental protection and conservation we live on,” Dr Zaigham Abbas told the school students.

The climate change official told the event participants further that to motivate people and obey the law against use, sell and manufacturing of the single-use plastic bags, alternate colorful cloth and other types of recyclable bags have been introduced.

The bags have been also introduced and promoted among masses through various means including digital media as a part of public awareness, he added.

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