ISLAMABAD: Pakistan is importing massive amounts of hazardous waste from several countries, including the United Kingdom, Iran, the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia, a parliamentary committee was informed on Thursday.

The United Kingdom alone dumped nearly 40,000 tonnes of waste in Pakistan last year, which lacked the capacity to separate regular and hazardous waste, resulting in serious environmental and health concerns.

Besides, 25,000 tonnes came from Iran and nearly 20,000 tonnes from the UAE, Senior Joint Secretary Ministry of Climate Change Syed Mujtaba Hussain briefed the committee members.

The Senate Standing Committee on Climate Change met for a briefing on the National Hazardous Waste Management Policy 2022 besides other agenda items, including Pakistan’s commitment with the international community to reduce carbon emissions.

85,000 tonnes come from UK, UAE and Iran last year

The federal cabinet on Tuesday approved the policy with consensus, and it would be passed on to provinces and implemented at federal level for international compliance.

The committee was informed that most of the waste, including electronic waste, was used by the recycling industry that is spread across the country in Karachi, Lahore, Sialkot, Gujranwala and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.

The recycling industry extracted metals such as gold, copper, and aluminium from the imported waste.

Other countries that dumped their waste into Pakistan included the United States, Belgium, Germany, Spain, Canada, Italy and others.

“The policy aims to prevent deadly waste from entering Pakistan and being created within the country,” Mr Hussain informed the members. “In 2019, 624 containers full of all kinds of waste were dumped along the Pakistani coastline. The private party that imported the waste could not be traced.”

The committee was informed that all aspects of solid waste imported into Pakistan were reviewed before issuing a no-objection certificate (NOC). However, the Ministry of Climate Change was reliant on provincial environment protection agencies before issuing NOCs.

As members expressed their dismay and were surprised that deadly waste was being allowed to come into Pakistan, they also learnt that 40 NOCs were issued to private parties last year to import waste into the country.

Minister for Climate Change Sherry Rehman suggested suspending NOCs until waste dumping and recycling infrastructure in the country was put in place.

She said a committee at the national level would implement the policy, which would require an eco-friendly management system for deadly waste. The provinces had been consulted in this regard, she said.

Senator Humayun Mohmand suggested that the ministry should take action against those involved in allowing deadly waste to enter the country.

Senator Farooq Naik complained, “We are unable to handle our own waste, let alone take care of waste being dumped into Pakistan by the rest of the world.”

Pakistan itself generates 30 million tonnes of municipal solid waste each year, 10 to 14 per cent of which is hazardous waste, including e-waste, hospital waste and pesticides.

Senator Seemi Ezdi, the committee’s chairperson, appreciated the policy as an excellent initiative on deadly waste.

Published in Dawn, July 1st, 2022

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