UNITED NATIONS: Pakistan called for a global approach to achieve the goal of a ‘zero-waste’ world as the UN chief warned that the planet was “literally drowning in garbage”.

The global and Pakistani perspectives were discussed at a meeting at the UN headquarters in New York this week where Pakistan highlighted one of its major problems: heaps of waste on the surface polluting groundwater resources. The sternest warning, however, came from UN Secretary-General António Guterres.

“The planet is literally drowning in garbage, and it is high time to clean up,” said the UN chief while emphasising the need to appreciate the gravity of the situation.

He reminded the world community that “the messy mountain” they were creating will reach four billion tonnes by 2050. “We are basically treating our planet like a garbage dump,” he said. “We are trashing our only home.”

Today’s world, he warned, was “spewing a torrent of waste and pollution that is affecting our environment, our economies, and our health”.

Ambassador Amir Khan, Pakistan’s deputy permanent representative to the United Nations, used this opportunity to talk about the problems his country was facing and the steps it has taken to deal with this issue.

“Our surface and groundwater resources are already under threat from climate change and the problem of inadequate waste management merely exacerbates this,” he said.

Pakistan generates 30 million tonnes of municipal solid waste each year, 10 to 14 per cent of which is hazardous waste, including e-waste and pesticides. Pakistan also receives an average of 80,000 tonnes of hazardous waste each year from different parts of the world.

Ambassador Khan said that Pakistan’s Hazardous Waste Management Policy, 2022 was “a national action plan,” which will strengthen “governance infrastructure for regulation of hazardous waste in our country and its international borders”.

But to have a zero-waste lifestyle, developing countries would “require enhanced global partnerships focused on capacity building, technology transfer, and finance”, he added.

This week the United Nations also observed the first-ever International Day of Zero Waste to promote sustainable consumption and production patterns.

The global body is calling for a societal shift towards waste management and raising awareness about how zero-waste initiatives contribute to the advancement of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

Experts who attended the meeting informed governments that through proper waste management they could save billions of dollars and create hundreds of thousands of jobs.

The UN secretary-general also encouraged countries to take inspiration from Turkiye’s Zero Waste project, which is spearheaded bythe First Lady, Emine Erdogan

In her keynote address, Ms Erdogan noted that all life on earth was inter-linked, but overconsumption was polluting the planet.

Published in Dawn, April 3rd, 2023

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