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Dawn

Published Date: Aug 20, 2019

Saying no to plastic bags is responsibility of citizens

This was the crux of a seminar on “Ban on plastic bags” organised by the Sustainable Development Policy Institute (SDPI) on Monday.
Speaking on the occasion, Minister of State for Climate Change Zartaj Gul said the government was determined to continue with its anti-plastic bags drive and would lift the burden of plastic from society. This will help us become climate resilient. Islamabad is a test case and we need to work on the behaviour change. We need to use alternative bags made of cloths and other non-plastic material as our ancestors used to do for long.
The minister said: “We should learn from urban flooding due to choking of drainages because of the plastic bags. Why are we shying away from cleaning ourselves? We have conditionally allowed companies to use plastic bottles with an instruction to share with the government their recycling plans.”
Speakers at a seminar say it is time to act to get rid of plastic bags for a clean environment
She said where there was no ban the citizens at least should start changing their behaviour and mindset on the use of plastic.
Ms Gul said media and civil society can help strengthen the ‘Say no to plastic bags’ campaign.
Deputy Commission Islamabad Hamza Shafqaat said the administration had banned all kinds of plastic, including plastic bottles and food wrappers. The clean and green campaign is being jointly run by various ICT departments. Banning plastic bags was just an initial step in the clean and green campaign.
“We now have an implementation mechanism since the Aug 14 launch of the plastic ban campaign. Whosoever will buy or sell plastic bags will be fined heavily up to Rs5000. We have seen a panic from some vendors who have taken stay orders from the high court against this policy. But it is good that 50-60 per cent markets in Islamabad have cooperated with the campaign realising that plastic bags are not good to use,” he said.
Talking about the implementation plan, the deputy commissioner said: “We have divided Islamabad into seven zones. We will identify places and gather evidence on the sale and use of plastic bags.”
He said the citizens would be given a choice to buy bags to take care of that and reuse it so that plastic bags in circulation are reduced.
This has been allowed so that the citizens should not depend on cloth bags donated by the government.
He said it was not a challenge that cannot be overcome. He hoped that in the next 45 days, through an aggressive awareness campaign and cooperation of the citizens and vendors, the district administration would make it possible that plastic bags were not seen in Islamabad.
Prof Usman Zafar Chaudhry called for the need to involve the youth to support the ‘say no to plastic bags’ campaign, saying plastic bags, emission and pollution were a matter of concern for all members of society.
“We are reactive but not proactive which does not help societies develop. The funding out of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) from industry needs to be prime focus to support initiatives such as the ‘say no to plastic bags.’”
He quoted the initiative taken by the students of Fast University who formalised a cleaning drive at the university and then extended it to G-9 Park and involved local residents. He said Radio Pakistan aired two shows which reached out to people on the same day the plantation drive was convened. He said community engagement was important in such drives to keep neighbourhoods clean. We should aim to have competitions of lawns or societies, he added.
Ahmed Hassan Mughal from the Islamabad Chamber of Commerce and Industry said it was a good initiative but no country had completely banned plastic bags.
A big issue is that duty on import of plastic is low.
He said the law to completely ban would affect business such as the paper industry and a large number of people employed in this sector would be jobless if we completely abolish it.

Source: https://www.dawn.com/news/1500528/saying-no-to-plastic-bags-is-responsibility-of-citizens