ISLAMABAD: The district administration has claimed that Islamabad will go plastic bag-free within one and a half months.
“Through our aggressive awareness campaign and cooperation of the people and vendors, we are confident of freeing Islamabad from plastic bags in the next 45 days,” deputy commissioner of the federal capital Hamza Shafqaat told a Sustainable Development Policy Institute seminar on ‘ban on plastic bags’ here on Monday.
The DC said the administration had banned plastic bags, plastic bottles, and wrappers for carrying food items as part of the ‘Clean and Green Pakistan’ campaign.
“We have seen panic from some vendors, who have taken stay orders from the high court against the ban but it is good that 50-60 per cent markets in Islamabad have cooperated with us realizing that the use of plastic bags is not good,” he said.
Hamza Shafqaat said banning plastic bags was just the first step towards the clean and green initiative. “We have an implementation mechanism since the 14 August launch of the plastic ban campaign. Those who so ever will buy or sell plastic bags will be fined heavily,” he said.
Talking about the implementation plan, the deputy commissioner said that the administration had divided Islamabad into seven zones. “We will identify places and gather evidence on the sale and use of plastic bags. The people will be given a choice to buy bags to take care of that and reuse it so that plastic bags in circulation are reduced. This has been allowed to the people so that they should not depend on fabric bags donated by the government,” he said.
Hamza Shafqaat said the elimination of plastic bags was not a challenge, which Islamabad couldn’t overcome. Minister of State for Climate Change Zartaj Gul, who was also in attendance, said the government wouldn’t compromise its commitment against plastic bags and would free the capital city from the plastic ‘burden’ to help it become climate-resilient.
“Islamabad is a test case. We need to work on behavior change. We need to use alternative bags made of cloth and other non-plastic material as our ancestors used to do for long,” she said.
The minister said the people should learn from urban flooding due to choking of drainages by plastic bags. “Why are we shying away from cleaning ourselves? We have conditionally allowed companies to use plastic bottles and they have been instructed to share with the government their recycling plans,” she said.
The minister said the residents of the areas, where plastic bags weren’t banned, should start changing their behavior and mindset about its use. She said media and civil society could help 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. The government in consultation with all the provinces is promoting the concept of clean and green Pakistan,” she said.
Expert Prof Usman Zafar Chaudhry called for the need to involve youths to support ‘say no to plastic bags’ campaigns, saying plastic bags, emission and pollution a matter of concern for all members of society.
“We are already late in combating waste. We are reactive but not proactive, which does not help societies develop. The funding out of corporate social responsibility from industry needs to be prime focus to support initiatives such as say no to plastic bags,” he said referring to the initiative taken by the students of Fast University to formalise a cleaning drive on campus and then to extend it to G9 Park by involving residents.
He said the Radio Pakistan aired two shows reaching out to people on the same day the plantation drive was launched.
“The community engagement is important in such drives to keep neighborhoods clean. We should aim to have competitions of lawns or societies,” he said. Ahmed Hassan Mughal of the Islamabad Chamber of Commerce and Industry said though the ban of plastic bags was a good initiative, no country had completely banned such bags.
“A big issue is that duty on import of plastic is low. The law to completely ban will affect business such as the paper industry and a large number of people employed in this sector will be jobless if we completely abolish it,” he said.
Ahmed Hassan also insisted that the ban would adversely affect other sectors, too. He wondered how the government would help those hit by alternate solutions. “We all need to work together otherwise this ban will fail,” he said.