LAHORE: The Punjab government on Thursday assured the Lahore High Court that it was not going to put an immediate ban on the manufacture, sale and use of polythene bags but would do so in phases and that too after a detailed consultation with the stakeholders.
Chief Secretary Yousaf Naseem Khokhar also told a full bench that the government had been considering the effects of abrupt ban enforcement by other provinces. The government, he said, was mindful of the problems those attached to the industry could face in case of a sudden ban.
Additional Attorney General Ishtiaq A. Khan and Advocate General of Punjab Ahmad Jamal Sukhera were also there to assist the bench headed by Justice Syed Mazahar Ali Akbar Naqvi. Justice Chaudhry Masood Jahangir and Justice Jawad Hassan are other members of the bench.
The chief secretary presented a draft law for the appraisal by the judges and said polythene bags of minimum thickness of 50 macrons would be allowed only. He said the manufacturing of the bags below the minimum standard would be banned after six months of enactment of the law, sale after 12 months and import after 18 months.
After a brief perusal of the draft, the bench pointed out technical flaws in it and directed the chief secretary to remove them before forwarding it to the authority.
The bench directed the government to also make some experts part of the consultation process with the stakeholders.
The chief secretary further told the bench that the government decided to recruit inspectors for the enforcement of the law once passed and to run the media campaign for the awareness of the public.
The bench observed that the government should broaden the scope of the legislation to regulate other plastic products.
The bench disposed of the petitions and also allowed lead counsel Abuzar Salman Niazi to approach court if the government failed to promulgate the new law within four weeks.
In the petition, the counsel had contended that plastic products caused harmful effects on human health and environment by the use of polythene bags & styrofoam products (plastic straws, cups, spoons, plates, food trays and other related disposable material). He said polythene bags and styrofoam products were single use plastic which took thousands of years to decompose and they had been causing havoc in various areas of Punjab and were damaging the sewerage system of cities, spreading epidemics, polluting soil, causing water pollution and endangering aquatic life.
He argued that the use of 15 microns thickness was an environmental disaster, even in third world countries minimum thickness allowed was 50 microns (which was relatively less hazardous for environment).
Published in Dawn, October 11th, 2019