KARACHI: The Cantonment Board Clifton (CBC) has decided to impose a ban on the use of polythene bags in its jurisdiction. As part of this campaign, residents will be persuaded to use paper or cloth bags instead of polythene ones. Shopkeepers selling household groceries and other items have also been directed to stop the commercial use of polythene bags.
A special campaign will run for 15 days to raise awareness among residents and visitors to Sea View, which also falls under the CBC jurisdiction. After the 15-day campaign ending on April 4, the CBC will fine those found violating the ban.
The Sindh government has already banned the sale and use of plastic bags and products. Section 14(3) of the Sindh Environment Protection Act 2014 states that "no person shall import, manufacture, stockpile, trade, supply, distribute or sell any scheduled plastic product which is non-degradable". At several times during the last couple of years, the Sindh government has made announcements to this effect. The last such move came in November last year, when the Sindh Cabinet decided to impose a phase-wise ban on the use of polythene and plastic bags in the province, with Sukkur being the first district. The ban would be enforced in Karachi in the next phase, the Cabinet had announced. However, it was hardly ever enforced.
Cost to the environment
According to the CBC administration, the decision to ban polythene bags has been taken due to their various negative effects on the environment. Over the last few years, the CBC has launched various drives such as plantation campaigns and other activities to improve the environment.
However, all these activities have been overshadowed by the unrestricted use of polythene bags, which have been found to be the single largest contributor to solid waste pollution. These polythene bags do not only increase the garbage spread in the streets but also affect the sewerage system when they get stuck in the drainage lines.
According to CBC representatives, between 320 and 350 metric tons of garbage is lifted from their jurisdiction on a daily basis. In the absence of a recycling mechanism, the plastic waste is disposed of in landfill sites in Surjani and Hub.
Polythene bags have also become a major threat to marine life. In turn, they are also dangerous for humans, who consume the same marine life that inadvertently swallows these plastics. Experts have warned that when these polythene bags find their way into the sea, they are broken down into micro plastic particles and are then consumed by marine life. This poison is included in human food through fish, prawns and other sea food.
Meanwhile, shopkeepers and vendors within the CBC's jurisdiction have been instructed to stop the use of polythene bags. These instructions would be announced repeatedly on mega-phones and in the form of written notices by CBC teams during the 15-day movement. Action against violators would then be initiated after April 5. Heavy penalties will be imposed on shopkeepers found violating the ban.
55 billion plastic bags being used annually in country
The CBC is also considering distributing paper or cloth bags among residents and shoppers to encourage the use of these alternative materials.
In response to a question regarding how the ban would be enforced on picnickers coming to Sea View, a spokesperson said that they had already placed garbage bins at short intervals along the promenade from McDonald's to Village Restaurant.
"People are unaware of the damage caused by polythene bags and so they don't throw the garbage in the bins although they are placed after every few steps," said the spokesperson.
The restriction would be imposed on the citizens coming for picnic as well as vendors running the stalls at Sea View, said the CBC spokesperson. Besides, banners are being put up at different locations to raise awareness among residents of Clifton and those coming for picnic.
Published in The Express Tribune, March 20th, 2019.