PESHAWAR, Jun 05 (APP): Like other provinces, International Environment Day was also observed in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa where environmentalists, foresters and ecologists appraised masses about various hazards of air, water and plastic pollution and called for forging unity to combat it before making the life of humans and aquatic creatures endangered.
In connection with the day, the environment-related functions and seminars were arranged by schools, colleges and universities to highlight the significance of the day. This year’s theme of the International Environment Day was ‘Beat Plastic Pollution’.
Gulzar Rehman, Retired Conservator of Forests KP told APP on Monday that functions, seminars, debates competitions and symposiums were held in educational institutions in all districts of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa where experts highlighted the negative effects of plastic pollution.
He said the large-scale production and excessive use of plastic products have created enormous environmental challenges to humans, wildlife and aquatic creatures world-wide.
He feared that plastic waste in canals, rivers and oceans would significantly decreased production of fish and other marine species in upcoming years if its dumping continues at such alarming scale.
CIting a report of the UN Environment Program, he said that every year, approximately 500 billion plastic bags were used including 50pc one time globally where about eight million tons plastic ends up in canals, rivers and oceans, which is equivalent to a truck filled with garbage every minute worldwide.
Ironically, he said that about 60 million plastic bags was being bought per hour, and only 14pc of the total used was recycled while the rest was disposed into oceans, rivers and soils.
Deedar Ahmed, former Assistant Director EPA KP told APP that polythene plastic bags were major contributors to plastic pollution since these bags have made their way to the market in 1960.
He said approximately, 6000 plastic factories are operating in the country, mostly located in Punjab (60%) followed by Sindh (30%), Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (7%) and Balochistan (3%), adding about 18 registered plastic manufacture companies operates in Peshawar.
He said plastic companies were asked to use one percent ‘D2W’ chemical in plastic bags an ingredient to attract bacteria to ensure its easy biodegradation.
“Black polythene bags are more dangerous for humans because of their repeated usage without proper recycling, thus exposing consumers to serious ailments including intestine infections, vomiting, digestive problems and premature births,” he maintained.
Terming polythene bags major source of plastic pollution, he said that it takes 100 to 1500 years to fully decompose in soil and have drastic effects on living creatures mostly in third world countries especially in SAARC.
He said micro plastic, which can’t be seen with naked eye, when comes in contact with heat, it is converted into smaller particles causing air pollution and become part of food cycle of human, fish, wildlife and mammals in land by putting their lives at heightening danger.
Director Livestock Department, Dr Muhammad Aftab said micro plastic particles may cause serious health risks like cancers, development issues in young children, fatigue, endocrine disruption, obesity and premature births both in humans and animals through air, water and edible items mostly fish and meat.
He said that animals and wildlife become victims of polythene bags and eventually die due to malnutrition as it badly affects their digestive system.
In addition to polluting grazing lands and tourists sites, he said non-biodegradable bags mostly find their way to open garbage dumps, landfill sites or municipal sewers, making sewage disposal systems less efficient cause flash flooding in urban areas and increase cost of utility operations.
Most of urban waste management companies are focusing on picking waste from communal bins in urban areas but overlook canals, rivers and oceans plastic waste’s disposal and once it is burnt hazardous gases like Dioxins and Furances pollute the air.
Plastic and water pollution in rivers Kabul and Swat had put population of Mahsher and Trout fish at risk, he said.
Deedar Ahmed of EPA said that bio-degradable bags having 50 microns size had been allowed in the market and polythene bags banned.
He said plastic size was measured through d2 detector machine and all those bags with less than 50 micron size are being seized.
Taking cognizance of an increase of plastic pollution, he said that complete ban on use and sale of non-biodegradable plastic bags has been imposed, requesting manufacturers, wholesale dealers and retailers to deplete their stock.
He said several polythene bags factories and manufactured companies in Hayatabad Industrial Estate Peshawar were seized under Prohibition of Non-degradable Plastic Products (Manufacturing, Sale and Usage) Rules 2016.
He said the cases of companies that are violating Govt orders are being sent to Environmental Tribunal Peshawar having the power to impose fine upto Rs5million, confiscated stock or imposed Rs100,000 fine per day or send the accused behind the bars.
He said huge investment was required for installation of Waste to Energy units and converting bricks kilns on ZigZag technology on the pattern of China to convert plastic waste into energy, adding at least Rs10million would be required for setting up of a plant with a capacity to generate five megawatt energy from plastic waste.
Muhammad Yousaf, a 62 year old shopkeeper at Firdus, a hub of plastic bags in Peshawar City, has accused former PTI Government for adaptation of KP Environmental Protection (amended) bill 2022 in haste and without making consultation with plastic factories owners association.
He said the PTI rulers had overlooked the difficulties and problems of thousands of people affiliated with the business and passed the legislation unilaterally.
Yousaf said the PTI government has failed to provide jobs alternative to traders and shopkeepers associated with plastic bags business and questioned that under the new bill, the shopkeeper could be jailed for six months and fined up to Rs500,000.
Yousaf said he had employed six labourers at his shop and it would be difficult for him to pay salaries if the polythene stock would not be sold.
Manzoorul Haq, former Ambassador of Pakistan said plastic pollution had a global and far-reaching impact on the international, regional and local environment, ecosystems, wildlife, livestock and marine life and great responsibility rests on UN to assist under developing and developing countries especially SAARC in combating plastic pollution.
He said local industry should be encouraged to produce environment friendly biodegradable plastics besides strengthening of waste management companies in terms of finances, manpower, equipments for speedy disposal of plastic waste.
He suggested that urban councils and waste management companies should reach out to communities to sensitize them against menace of plastic pollution.
Manzoor said users must be sensitized to understand the gravity of this looming issue for which role of media was key and urged consumers to buy and use biodegradable plastic and clothes bags and ensure its proper disposal to make the planet a peace living abode for future generation.
Ibrahim Khan, Deputy Project Director, 10 billion trees afforestration project said that Pakistan was ranked below of 10 countries affected by climate change.
He said over 1.20 billion trees were planted in the first phase of the project to combate climate change and pollution.
Ibrahim underscored the need for unity against climate change and pollution and plantations of maximum trees to make our planet pollution free.