Senate body announces plans to phase out plastic bags at Parliament House

Published February 14, 2019
Pemra directed to air public service messages on dangers of plastic bags, littering. — File photo
Pemra directed to air public service messages on dangers of plastic bags, littering. — File photo

ISLAMABAD: A parliamentary subcommittee on Wednesday announced plans to phase out the use of plastic bags in Parliament House and then banning them in government offices.

A subcommittee of the Senate Standing Committee on Climate Change decided to eradicate the use of plastic in the capital before rolling out similar plans in the rest of the country.

The decision was made after a Ministry of Climate Change official told the committee that biodegradable bags in use at most large stores in the capital are more harmful that normal plastic bags.

“Oxo-biodegradable plastic bags, which disintegrate into tiny fragments after reacting with elements such as air and sunlight stay in the environment for longer and end up being consumed by cattle, sea life and even humans,” the official told the subcommittee.

Pemra directed to air public service messages on dangers of plastic bags, littering

The senators also discussed poor waste collection methods in the city, the mixing of hazardous hospital waste with municipal waste, and raising awareness among citizens to stop littering.

Committee chair Senator Mushahid Hussain Syed announced that an action plan would be developed in this regard, and directed the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (Pemra) to ensure public service messages are aired on all television channels.

“We will give Pemra the ideas on how to educate citizens on the dangers of plastic bags to the environment, as well as ask them to keep their city clean. I want to see these public service messages on primetime,” Senator Syed said.

It was also suggested that the messages encourage citizens to use cloth bags.

While deliberating on poor garbage collection in the city, Major Sheikh Anser Aziz told the meeting that there are 700 sanitation workers collecting garbage in Islamabad, including in its outskirts.

“Until the government funds us sufficiently and provides enough resources, the issue of garbage collection will remain a problem,” he told senators.

Climate Change Secretary Nasir Jamil also told the committee that the Metropolitan Corporation Islamabad was short on funds and had not received any support from the government.

Civil society members who also attended the meeting complained about the failure of successive governments to build a waste disposal plant in Islamabad.

“We need to have a permanent solution to Islamabad’s waste disposal problem. There is so much litter everywhere that the capital gives the feel of a huge dump site,” Cristina Afridi, a civil society representative, said.

Hospital waste disposal

While discussing the collection and disposal of hazardous hospital waste, the subcommittee was also told that the capital now has nine incinerators, including those recently installed at the Pakistan Institute of Medical Sciences (Pims) for the 200 kilograms of waste it produces every day.

The Pakistan Environment Protection Agency told senators that they have issued summons to 82 health facilities that their officials visited for not complying with the 2005 Hospital Waste Management Rules. Another eight have been issued environmental protection orders.

The senators were informed that 33 health facilities in Islamabad generate an estimated 100,000kg of infectious waste every month.

While the committee praised Pims for installing a brand new incinerator, environmentalists from the climate change ministry argued against installing incinerators in the heart of the city.

Published in Dawn, February 14th, 2019

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