Zartaj says anti-plastic bags drive to go unabated; federal capital test case

ISLAMABAD: Minister of State for Climate Change, Zartaj Gul said the government is determined to continue anti-plastic bags drive unabated as federal capital is a test case and we need to work on behavior change.

Addressing a seminar on ‘Ban on plastic bags’ organized by the Sustainable Development Policy Institute (SDPI) she said, “This will help us to be climate resilient and we need to use alternative bags made of cloth and other non-plastic material as our ancestors used to do for long.”

The minister said, “We should learn from urban flooding where plastic bags have been the major cause behind choking of drainage.” She questioned that why we were shying away from cleaning ourselves. We had conditionally allowed companies to use plastic bottles and they had been instructed to share their recycling plans with the government, a press release issued said.

She urged the masses that where there was no ban imposed (referring to other parts of the country other than federal capital) the people at least start changing their behavior and mindset for using plastics.

She said Media and civil society can help to strengthen ‘Say no plastic bags’ campaign. “We love to park our cars under a tree but we do not bother to plant the trees at first place,” she remarked.

The government in consultation with all the provinces was promoting the concept of clean and green Pakistan, the minister added.

Deputy Commission Islamabad Hamza Shafqaat said the administration had banned all kinds of plastics including plastic bottles and wrappers containing food items.

“The clean and green campaign is being jointly run by various Islamabad Capital Territory (ICT) departments,” he said, adding, banning plastic bags was just an initial step towards clean and green campaign.

We had now an implementation mechanism since the 14 August launch of the plastic ban campaign; those who so ever would buy or sell plastic bags would be heavily fined up to Rs 5000, he noted.

“We have seen a panic from some vendors who have taken stay orders from the high court against this policy. But it is propitious that 50-60 percent markets in the federal capital have cooperated with the campaign realizing that plastic bags are not good to use,” the deputy commissioner informed.

Talking about the implementation plan, the Deputy Commissioner said, “We have divided Islamabad in seven zones. We will identify places and gather evidence on sale and use of plastic bags.”

He said the people would be given a choice to buy alternate bags to take care of that and reuse it so that plastic bags in circulation were reduced.

“This has been allowed to the people so that they should not depend on cloth bags donated by the government,” he added.

He said, “It is not a challenge that we cannot overcome.” He hoped that in the next 45 days, through our extensive awareness campaign and cooperation of the people and vendors, we would try that plastic bags were not seen in the federal capital.

Prof Usman Zafar Chaudhry called for the need to involve youth to support ‘say no to plastic bags’ campaigns, saying, plastic bags, emission and pollution was a matter of concern for all members of society.

He quoted the initiative taken by the students of Fast University who formalized a cleaning drive at the university and then extended it to G9 Park and involved local residents.

He said Radio Pakistan aired two shows which reached out to people on the same day the plantation drive convened.

Ahmed Hassan Mughal from the Chamber of Commerce Islamabad said that it was a good initiative; however, no country had completely banned plastic bags. A big issue was that duty on import of plastic was low, he added.