PAID-VOLUNTEERISM, CONSISTENT MONITORING URGED TO ELIMINATE PLASTIC SHOPPING BAGS

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Islamabad, AUG 14 /DNA/ – The experts and concerned citizens urged the government authorities to take inclusive measures for the implementation of a ban on the manufacturing, distribution, selling and use of the plastic bags. A policy without implementation is a total failure of the government departments. Not only the ban on plastic shopping bags turned to be a joke, it speaks aloud about vigour and implementation capacity of the government departments.

They recommended paid-volunteerism for the engagement of citizens and youth in the implementation of the ban by promising some incentives to them. The Ministry of Climate Change (MOCC), Pakistan Environmental Protection Agency (Pak-EPA) and the Islamabad Capital Territory Administration (ICTA) in collaboration with the environmental groups in the federal capital shall develop a mechanism to actively engage stakeholders for the success of the ban on shopping bags.

Development Communications Network (Devcom-Pakistan) and DTN organized the webinar on Saturday to review the state of implementation of ban on the manufacturing, distribution, selling and use of the shopping bags in the Islamabad Capital Territory (ICT) two years after. The absence of government representatives reflected the level of their concerns on eliminating the plastic shopping bags.

Devcom-Pakistan Executive Director Munir Ahmed said the authorities have failed to implement the ban in letter and spirit. Initially they launched a faulty regulations in 2019 without incorporating the recommendations by the experts and citizens. Secondly, the citizens were not engaged in the implementation phase despite their willingness to volunteer their time and expertise.

He said the conflict between the parent ministry and the Pak-EPA has also been damaging the cause of sustainable environmental practices in Islamabad. The result is that the single use plastic bags are back in use along with polypropylene and nonwoven bags – the bigger menace. The alternate bags are completely out of the scene. Those who invested to provide fabric and jute bags have suffered huge losses.  

Young environmental activist Anam Rathore no proper awareness campaign was executed before imposing a ban on the shopping bags, and after initial monitoring visits the authorities put the process on the will of the traders and hawkers. Instead of putting a stop on the source of production, the emphasis was on controlling the use. The shopkeepers and hawkers were fined while the large corporations remained free to their will. The authorities and some of the well-known environmental organizations are playing blind on the wrongdoings of the corporate sector, the big violators of the ban.

Environmentalist Azhar Qureshi said the international organization WaterAid provided PKR 20 million to the ministry for the implementation of the ban, but no concrete and sustainable mechanism was seen to eliminate the single use plastic bags. Now the ministry-supported manufacturers of the polypropylene bags have also joined the crooks.

Environmentalist from Quetta Dr Zahoor Bazai said the Balochistan government has finalized the strategy to ban the single-use shopping bags that would be launched soon with an aggressive awareness campaign. He said citizens’ productive engagement is vital for any such regulations.     

Lahore-based Mobashar Khan said that their company has taken steps to introduce starch bags to replace the single-use plastic bags.  

Moazzam Hashmi said the relevant ministry has miserably failed in successfully implementing its no-plastic bags policy.  Mainly because the policy designed was flawed, lacked the political will, implementation mechanism and the leadership mettle. The optics served only in gaining a quick yet partial and temporary attention that fizzled out in no time. What we are left with is a chaotic and confused situation where nobody knows the clear direction. Follow-up couldn’t be made either due to the dearth of alternatives plus the existing policy has added the cost of alternative shopping bags, which is not being encouraged by the shoppers for this particular reason.