Plastic pollution threatens Pakistan’s climate goals


ISLAMABAD:

Experts are raising alarms about plastic pollution’s interference with Pakistan’s climate change efforts, highlighting it as a significant barrier to the preservation of natural habitats and the fight against environmental harm.

 “Plastic debris poses a looming threat that undermines Pakistan’s progress in environmental policy and activism. This rampant issue, ranging from choking our water bodies to damaging diverse habitats, heightens the need for immediate and collective action,” emphasized Dr Ejaz Ahmed, an esteemed environmental advocate and former leader at WWF-Pakistan.

Dr Ejaz Ahmed suggests that embracing recycling programs and scientific breakthroughs in converting plastic waste could unlock its potential as a resource. This could facilitate the country’s economic growth while also tackling the issue of plastic waste through alternative uses such as fuel in cement factories or creating building materials, thus contributing to a reduction in carbon footprints.

Moreover, Dr Ejaz expressed concern about plastic’s invasive effects on daily life and its implications for human well-being, highlighting the various ways in which plastics threaten marine life, disrupt urban infrastructure, and pose health risks.

Despite ongoing efforts to elevate public understanding and put in place strict policies, the relentless spread of plastic continues to infiltrate our everyday existence – from personal household goods to various packaging of consumables – much to our dismay, he pointed out.

Read more: Urging Steps Against the Pervasive Plastic Crisis

Dr Ejaz underscores the widespread destructive impact of plastic, from its production to its disposal, and the ensuing substantial challenge this poses to Pakistan’s environmental initiatives.

In a country already besieged by the threats of climate change, combating plastic pollution has become a critical issue. With an annual global production of over 300 million tonnes of plastic, half of which is disposable, the need to confront this crisis is critical.

While nations such as Bangladesh, France, and Rwanda have made impactful moves against the spread of plastic, Pakistan is at a crucial crossroads, dealing with the highest proportion of poorly managed plastic in the region.

Although measures such as the Statutory Regulatory Order (SRO) to prohibit plastic bags in major cities like Islamabad, Lahore, and Hunza demonstrate progress, a cohesive policy approach at both federal and provincial levels remains noticeably absent.

Shafee Muhammad Marwat, an official from Islamabad’s civic agency, regularly spearheads anti-pollution initiatives. He points out the damages plastic inflicts upon both human and marine life, as well as cityscape structures. Recognizing that despite campaigns and penalties to dissuade plastic use, its prevalence for carrying food and waste reveals an ongoing struggle.

Specialists in climate and health are unanimously voicing their concerns about the severe health dangers arising from plastic use, including the increase in lung diseases, various cancers, and skin conditions, which signal an approaching health crisis.

Furthermore, Dr Shazia Aslam from Lahore, a prominent dermatologist, reiterates the concerns raised by Marwat and Dr Ejaz. She warns against the release of hazardous substances from plastics, especially when exposed to heat, which can lead to respiratory illnesses and cancer.

Dr Shazia Aslam emphasizes the urgency in shifting to environmentally friendly alternatives and adopting sustainable practices to lessen the dangers of plastic,

As Pakistan forges ahead through the complex challenge of climate change, the fight against plastic pollution stands out as a pivotal battle in the quest to achieve environmental sustainability.

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