Home South Asia Pakistan Zartaj Gul formally announces ban on plastic bags in Islamabad

Zartaj Gul formally announces ban on plastic bags in Islamabad

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News Desk |

Pakistan is the seventh most vulnerable country to climate change in the world; before the issue could escalate further the Minister for climate change, Zartaj Gul has formally announced the ban on plastic bags to combat the rising problem.

Come Independence Day, residents of the capital territory will be compelled to be more mindful of their environment as the minister of state for climate change, Zartaj Gul, announces a complete ban on single-use plastic bags from 14th August. Announcing a hefty fine in the range of Rs. 100,000 and Rs. 500,000 for manufacturers of such plastic bags and urging them to cooperate and adapt with the step, the minister foresees a lessening in the environmental and cosmetic degradation that plastic bags cause.

Plastic production is on an upward trend worldwide and is estimated to be a major hurdle in accomplishing some stated goals of the historic Paris Climate change agreement as it will make up 13% of the total “carbon budget.”

Recognizing the cumulative role of plastic bags in global warming, the minister announced this as an urgent step. She informed the press conference that the move had been made with unanimous support, including that of PM Imran Khan.

According to a report by the Center for International Environmental Law, the effects of plastic bags on climate change are often deliberately hidden. The report comprehensively estimates the carbon footprint of these bags from “cradle to grave” for the first time and cites it as one of the major bulwarks in stopping the rise of world temperatures by more than 1.5C, a stated goal of the international community. Plastic production is on an upward trend worldwide and is estimated to be a major hurdle in accomplishing some stated goals of the historic Paris Climate change agreement as it will make up 13% of the total “carbon budget.”

Plastic is notorious for its footprint not only because it refuses to decompose, but because every stage of its production and refinement is a high-emission activity. Pakistan, with its gargantuan population of 220 million people and growing, can make a reasonable dent in this scenario. Islamabad, where the average resident uses 3-4 plastic bags a day, is a great place to start.

Read more: Clean and Green: Islamabad to become plastic-free

Ms. Gul suggests reusable plastic bags and cloth bags as replacements which the government will also assist in making widely available. “Implementation will be strict, and raids will be carried out with the assistance of law enforcement,” she said. She added that she hopes the media and civil society would support and promote the government narrative on protecting the environment. Ms. Gul expressed her conviction that this was a step that was urgently required and added that “Plastic bags are the biggest problem in choking drains, sewerage systems and streams.”

The PTI Government’s Vision for the Environment

After the KPK government’s globally lauded ‘billion tree tsunami’, there are hopes of grand steps that will be taken now that PTI occupies the center. The PT.I is yet to present a tangible commitment that does justice to the daunting challenge that is climate change but has promised a “ten billion tree tsunami.”

It is time the government started to treat global warming as the chief threat to the human race that it is and spending adequate time and resources on it.

In the same press conference, Ms. Gul announced that the project would be undertaken in a meaningful manner once the PM returned from his maiden US visit. She bore good news that the plan to plant 140 million saplings in the monsoon season was already underway. “Conserving water and planting more trees are the biggest challenges thrown at us by the changing climate. Pakistan is suffering losses to the tune of 5pc of its GDP due to impact of climate change,” she said.

She also announced a crackdown on skincare brands using excessive amounts of mercury in their products, which is harmful to both people’s health and the environment. Out of reported 57 brands tested by the ministry, only 4 were compliant with international standards. She warned that the crackdown on the industry will commence after 31st December after dealing with some bureaucratic hurdles and paperwork.

Despite the smaller steps like those of banning the plastic bags in Islamabad and regulating mercury in skincare products, larger initiatives like the ten billion tree project will make a real difference. These too must be part of a larger strategic framework to be truly effective. It is time the government started to treat global warming as the chief threat to the human race that it is and spending adequate time and resources on it.

Read more: Cigarette butts are the forgotten plastic pollution – and they could be killing our plants

Right now, the government needs a more nuanced approach where it deals with environmental degradation and global warming as separate but related issues, which they are, and prepares for a future where Pakistan is predicted to be the seventh-most vulnerable country to climate change in the world.

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