ISLAMABAD: Despite a blanket ban on the sale and use of polythene bags in Islamabad, these are being used without any fear of legal action in the federal capital and elsewhere.
In August last year, Ministry of Climate Change had declared the use of polythene bag illegal due to its harmful effect on the environment but the ban is being flouted due to ineffective implementation by the authorities concerned.
Shops and grocery stores that were previously wrapping items in paper or packing them in paper bags have now back to using plastic carrier bags, and fruit and vegetable vendors are using plastic bags at weekly markets.
A senior official from the ministry said that people are continuing to dispose of garbage using plastic bags, “which is evident from the heaps of garbage dump sites in the outskirts of Islamabad, on the roadsides and around bins outside streets in residential sectors”.
He added that the Pakistan Environment Protection Agency (Pak-EPA) has not been able to rein in their use by cart vendors in the streets. “They continue to package items in plastic bags. It is particularly difficult to bring pushcart vendors under the ambit of the new law prohibiting the use of plastic bags, as they do not have associations that the government can negotiate with,” he said.
Another senior official of Islamabad Capital Territory (ICT) said that consumers are not co-operating with the ban either.
“This is a huge task that the few teams of inspectors cannot enforce on their own. They need the help of Islamabad’s residents, who must play their part by refusing to accept plastic bags from shopkeepers, but that cannot be accomplished without continuous awareness initiatives,” the official said.
Residents have complained that they cannot help it if shopkeepers have returned to using plastic bags. “I often carry my items in my hands. But sometimes you cannot carry all the groceries in just your hands. They have also stopped selling items in paper bags, which was a good option,” said Rehan, a resident of Sector G-8.
To make matters worse, there seems to be no end in sight to the use of oxo-biodegradable plastic bags, which according to the ministry of climate change are far more hazardous to the environment and to human health.
Pak-EPA officials on condition of anonymity told APP that oxo-biodegradable bags can affect soil fertility and water when they disintegrate, which they do upon interacting with elements such as sunlight, water and oxygen. They argue that the tiny particles of plastic can also be inhaled and are equally threatening to marine life that can also consume them. They were of a view that due to a shortage of staff the agency could not yield desired results.
The Pak-EPA needs at least a dozen inspectors for the entire city. Most of the fieldwork and raids are being conducted by senior officers, who miss out on office work when they are in the field,” they added. They further said that shopkeepers are taking the government for granted by thinking the efforts being made would fade away.