Plastic pollution

June 26, 2017

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FEW issues facing the globe are of such urgency as tackling environmental pollution. From climate to the food we eat, our very existence is impacted by it. According to the World Wide Fund for Nature-Pakistan, the unabated dumping of plastic products in the waters off the coast has become a serious threat to marine animals and to plants that are native to offshore waters. To illustrate the spread of pollutants, the organisation reported that a needlefish caught a couple of days ago 270km south of Karachi was stuck in the handle of a plastic cup. Studies carried out by the WWF-P show that on beaches such as Clifton, plastic contributes up to 50pc of beached garbage. However, it seems only the KP government assigns environmental pollution the importance that it deserves, and is taking measures to address it. The provincial environmental protection agency on Tuesday issued a notification banning the manufacture of non-biodegradable products across KP.

The world is reaching a critical stage where environmental pollution is concerned — some would even argue we have crossed the tipping point. While Pakistan, in global terms, figures far down on the list of contributors to greenhouse gas emissions and solid waste, our disposal mechanisms of the solid waste that we produce and how we dispose of it has dire, ongoing implications for our quality of life. Non-biodegradable plastics leach harmful carcinogens, among other lethal substances into the soil, polluting our sub-soil water and increasing the health burden on the country’s already overburdened health sector. When plastics are ingested by marine life, including by plankton — the lowest rung on the food chain — many of the toxins ultimately end up inside humans. According to a reputable organisation working on global environmental issues, there are over five trillion plastic pieces afloat at sea. Forward-thinking, civilised societies dispose of their waste responsibly and are increasingly switching to the use of biodegradable products. Other provinces should take a leaf out of KP’s book.

Published in Dawn, June 26th, 2017