World Earth Day: Call for conservation of environment, unite against plastic pollution

World Earth Day: Call for conservation of environment, unite against plastic pollution
PESHAWAR, Apr 22 (APP): Collecting polythene bags at Pabbi bazaar on occasion of International Earth Day, the students of three private schools on Monday joined hands to clear it from raw plastics imperative to protect human, animals and water creatures from its hazards.
The students of Educators, Smart and Khan school systems assembled in front of office of the tehsil municipal administration (TMA) Pabbi Nowshera where they actively participated in polythene bags clearance operation on World Earth Day marked in Pakistan.
Every year, international earth day is observed across the globe including Pakistan to show firm support for environmental and forest conservation besides sustainability viz a viz encouraging people to come together and take action for a healthier planet.
The campaign was aimed to raise awareness among people for fostering a deep connection with the nature.
The world earth day 2024 theme was Planet vs Plastics, which aims to bring attention to the serious issue of plastic pollution and its negative effects on living creatures.
“We are gathered here to pass a strong message that we are all united against the scourge of plastic pollution,’ said Haider Ali, administrator of the Educators School Pabbi campus while talking to APP.
During the one hour special drive, he said that 20 kilogram raw plastic bags were collected and properly disposed off.
Professor Dr Muhammad Nafees of the Environmental Sciences Department, University of Peshawar said that the origin of International Earth Day can be traced back to 1970 when its idea was originated from Gaylord Nelson, a US senator, and Denis Hayes, a Harvard student whom were deeply disturbed by the deteriorating environment in their country.
Declaring plastic pollution as a threat to all living creatures, he said it was more injurious then air pollution.
Dr Nafees said 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.
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 region.
He said the large-scale production and an excessive use of plastic products have created enormous environmental challenges to humans, wildlife and aquatic creatures world-wide including  Pakistan.
Dr Nafees feared that plastic waste in canals, rivers and oceans would significantly decreased production of fish and other marine species in next few years if its dumping continues at such alarming scale.
Every year, approximately 500 billion plastic bags were used including 50pc one time in world 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.
Interestingly, 60 million plastic bags was being bought per hour, and only 14pc of the total used was recycled while the rest was disposed into streets, bazaars, oceans, rivers and soils, according to UN Environment Program.
According to reports, about nine percent plastic waste out of about 30 million tons solid waste generated in the country.
Dr Khaista Gul, senior Analyst Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) KP told APP that about 6,000 plastic factories were operating in the country, mostly located in the Punjab (60%) followed by Sindh (30%), Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (7%) and Balochistan (3%) and about 18 registered plastic manufacture companies and dozens others unregistered were operating in Peshawar.
“We have asked plastic companies to use one percent ‘D2W’ chemical in plastic bags an ingredient to attract bacteria to ensure its easy biodegradation within few years,” he said.
Dr Khaista Gul said that only bio-degradable bags having 50 microns size had been allowed in the market and polythene bags banned.
“The plastic size is measured through d2 detector machine and all those bags with less than 50 micron size are being seized the province,” he said.
Taking cognizance of an increase of plastic pollution, KP Govt has imposed complete ban on use and sale of non-biodegradable plastic bags and asked the manufacturers, wholesale dealers and retailers to deplete their stock.
He said dozens of polythene bags factories including manufactured companies in Dir Lower and Hayatabad Industrial Estate Peshawar sealed under Prohibition of Non-degradable Plastic Products (Manufacturing, Sale and Usage) Rules 2016.
“The cases of companies that are violating Govt orders are being sent to Environmental Tribunal Peshawar having the power to impose fine upto Rs 5 million, confiscated stock or imposed Rs100,000 fine per day or send the accused behind the bars,” he said.
He said huge investment was required for installation of waste to energy units on the pattern of China to convert plastic waste into energy, adding at least Rs50 million would be required for setting up of a plant with a capacity to generate 5megawatt energy.
He said plastic pollution had a global and far-reaching negative  impact on the international, regional and local environment, ecosystems, wildlife, livestock viz a viz marine life and great responsibility rests on the international community to help assist all under developing and developing countries including  Pakistan in combating plastic pollution.
 He said local industry should be encouraged to produce environment friendly biodegradable plastics bags besides strengthening of waste management companies in terms of finances, manpower, equipments for speedy disposal of all plastic waste.
The 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.” Dr Aftab Ahmed, Director Livestock Department told APP.
Declaring micro plastic particles are causing serious health risks, he said that developing 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 are its adverse effects.
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.
Dr Ahmed said 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.
He said plastic and water pollution in rivers Kabul and Swat had put populations of Mahsher and Trout fish at high risk.
The experts suggested that urban councils and waste management companies should reach out to communities to sensitize them against plastic pollution.
They 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 upcoming generation.
APP Services