ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister’s Coordinator on Climate Change Romina Khurshid Alam on Sunday underlined the urgency of banning the production, distribution, and use of polythene, citing the detrimental environmental impact, such as carbon emissions, and contribution to respiratory ailments.

In a press statement, she also highlighted the unprecedented importance of public engagement through awareness campaigns to reduce the environmental impact of plastic waste and promote the use of more sustainable alternatives. “Without engaging the public…about adverse impacts of plastics on the environment and public health, the country cannot get rid of the plastic pollution,” she cautioned.

The PM’s aide also urged the provincial governments to promote eco-friendly alternatives, like cotton bags to replace plastic bags, while appealing to the citizens to switch to cloth and paper bags as alternatives to plastic. According to the PM’s aide, plastic waste has become a major source of various kinds of pollutants, contaminating land, water bodies and oceans and it takes hundreds to thousands of years to decompose, leading to long-term pollution.

She said further that the production and disposal of plastics contributed to greenhouse gas emissions as plastic production relies heavily on fossil fuels and incineration of plastic waste releases carbon dioxide and other harmful gases. “Developing and promoting/adopting the use of biodegradable plastics, adopting recycling technologies and alternative materials would significantly mitigate the negative impacts of traditional plastics in our lives,” she suggested.

Says transition of plastic industry to sustainable materials needs to be encouraged

She claimed that the government was incentivising the production and use of biodegradable and eco-friendly alternatives to plastic. “Manufacturers and retailers are encouraged to transition to sustainable materials, with tax benefits and subsidies provided to support this shift,” she said, adding that investments were also being made to improve the country’s waste management infrastructure by encouraging the establishment of more recycling facilities, better waste segregation practices, and increased capacity for plastic waste processing.

She also urged the businesses to support the government’s efforts to make the country plastic-free. “Reducing plastic use, improving waste management, and transitioning to sustainable alternatives are essential steps to mitigate the harmful impacts of plastics on the environment, human health, and the economy,” she stressed.

The climate change coordinator also lauded the ban on the use of plastic bags in Punjab and urged other provinces to follow suit. “Imposing the ban on plastic bags in Punjab…was a long-awaited move to deal with hazardous effects of plastic on the environment and human health,” she said.

“Achieving plastic-free Pakistan is an extremely challenging goal, but it is possible with coordinated efforts by all provincial governments to completely ban manufacturing, distribution and sale and purchase of plastics in all forms and manifestations at all levels,” Romina Khurshid Alam remarked.

It may be noted that Punjab Chief Minister Maryam Nawaz enforced the province-wide ban on plastics on June 5, a move that coincided with World Environment Day marked every globally on the same day. However, the use of plastic continues across the province.

Ms Alam recalled that when the ban on plastics was being imposed in Islamabad under relevant laws, all the provincial, Gilgit-Baltistan and Azad Jammu and Kashmir governments were requested by the federal government to impose plastic ban in their respective provincial and administrative territories as a part of the federal government’s ‘Plastic-Free Pakistan’ campaign.

“Now it is heartening to note all provincial governments are making efforts to rid the country of environmentally-damaging plastics in support to achieve the goal of plastics-free Pakistan,” she said, recalling that the challenges the federal capital faced in the implementation of the ban on single-use plastics and other such items in the capital territory. It had faced stiff challenges, including resistance from businesses, a lack of alternatives, and enforcement issues.

Published in Dawn, June 24th, 2024

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