The Express Tribune
Published Date: Aug 20, 2019
Even though the district administration of the federal capital has yet to fully enforce a ban on plastics in the city, one administrator hopes to bring about a change in the habits of the city’s residents over the course of the next month and a half even as a junior climate change minister reiterated the government’s commitment to using the federal capital as a test case against plastic.
This was stated by Islamabad Capital Territory (ICT) Deputy Commissioner Hamza Shafqaat on Monday during a seminar on ‘Ban on plastic bags’. The seminar had been organised by the Sustainable Development Policy Institute (SDPI).
Shafqaat said that the district administration has banned all kinds of plastics in the federal capital, including plastic bottles and wrappers containing food items as part of their larger Clean and Green campaign in the city.
“We now have an implementation mechanism [for the ban] since the August 14 launch of the plastic ban campaign,” the deputy commissioner said, adding that those who will buy or sell plastic bags will be fined up to Rs5,000.
“We have seen a panic from some vendors who have taken stay orders from the honourable high court against this policy,” Shafqaat admitted.
Despite the initial panic, he claimed that around 60 per cent of markets in the federal capital has “cooperated with the campaign”.
Asked about the implementation plan, the deputy commissioner said that they have divided Islamabad into seven zones.
“We will identify places and gather evidence on sale and use of plastic bags,” he said.
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Furthermore, he said that citizens will be given a choice to buy re-useable bags to reduce plastic bags in circulation.
“This has been allowed to the people so that they should not depend on cloth bags donated by the government,” he explained.
Noting that it is not a challenge that they could overcome, he hoped that their aggressive campaign against plastics and the cooperation of the public over the next 45 days, “we will try that plastic bags are not seen in Islamabad.”
Earlier, Minister of State for Climate Change Zartaj Gul said that the government is determined to continue with its anti-plastic bag drive to lift the burden of plastic from society.
This, Wazir hoped, will also help make the society more climate-resilient.
“Islamabad is a test case and we need to work on behaviour change,” she said, adding, “We need to use alternative bags made of clothes and other non-plastic material as our ancestors used to do for long.”
Pointing to the recent flooding in various cities of the country during the recent spell of monsoon rains, Wazir said that the main reason for it was the choking of drains due to plastic bags dumped into them.
“Why are we shying away from cleaning [cities] ourselves?” she asked in a veiled swipe at provincial governments.
Explaining the decision to allow certain companies to continue using plastic bottles, the state minister said that such companies have been instructed to share their recycling plans with the government.
She urged people living in areas where there is no ban on plastic yet to at least start changing their habits and mindset on the use of plastic.
The minister also urged the media and civil society to help strengthen the ‘Say no plastic bags’ campaign.
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We love to park our cars under a tree but we do not bother to plant trees in the first place. The government in consultation with all the provinces is promoting the concept of clean and green Pakistan, the minister added.
Professor Usman Chaudhry called for involving the youth to support the plastic bag ban campaigns. Noting that plastic bags, emission and pollution affect all members of the society, he said that we are already late in combating plastic waste.
“We are reactive but not proactive, which does not help societies develop,” he said. In this regard, he stated that funding from the Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) accounts of industries need to support initiatives such as ‘say no to plastic bags.
Islamabad Chamber of Commerce and Industry (ICCI) member Ahmed Hassan Mughal said that a big issue is that duty on import of plastic is low.
He voiced concerns that a complete ban on the commodity will impact the plastic business and even the paper industry and a large number of people employed in these sectors will be jobless if we completely abolish bags.
Mughal warned that it could impact other sectors as well and posed how does the government aim to help those who will be impacted through alternate solutions?
He suggested collective strategies to ensure the policy does not fail.