Plastic pollution on the rise in Pakistan: Report

KARACHI:Plastic pollution on the rise in Pakistan Plastic pollution is on the rise in Pakistan as authorities have taken no solid steps to control it, harming marine and riverine life besides posing threat to the health of humans as well as animals, according to an investigation report made by senior journalist M Nawaz Khuhro.

The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) says Pakistan generates approximately 20 million tons of solid waste annually, of which 5 to 10 percent is plastic waste.

Pakistan has one of the highest percentages of mismanaged plastic in South Asia. More than 3.3 million tons of plastic is wasted each year in Pakistan and most of it ends up in landfills, unmanaged dumps or strewn about land and water bodies across the country damaging the environment and people’s health.

Plastic pollution has become one of the most pressing environmental issues in Pakistan that is fast deteriorating water bodies including ocean, rivers, canals, and lakes. The most affected of them is ocean followed by rivers, canals and lakes. Karachi contributes more to the plastic pollution in ocean as used plastics thrown in drains directly goes to the sea as there is no treatment plant to stop its discharge. The used plastic of Sukkur, Hyderabad, Jamshoro, and other cities also goes Indus River.

Many Punjab cities waste containing plastic also flows to rivers, canals and lakes. Disposal of untreated domestic, industrial and agricultural wastes containing plastic in large amount from 12 major cities and rural areas into the Ravi and Sutlej rivers enhance their pollution load, which gets further concentrated during dry season.

Pakistan has one of the largest irrigation systems containing canals is being degraded by discharging waste containing plastic. The use of plastic is rising with gradual increase in population, rapid urbanization, increasing industrial- agricultural activities and disposal of untreated water.

As per WWF report, plastics account for 65% of Pakistan's total waste. Plastic takes 500-1000 years to degrade following which it becomes microplastics, without fully degrading; government needs to ban manufacturing plastic bags instead paper bags should be introduced.

“All main urban centers in Pakistan should strictly impose a ban on single-use polythene bags to tackle the problem of plastic pollution. The problem of plastic waste in Karachi has not just created the issue of urban flooding during monsoons but also caused massive harm to the marine and coastal environment of the city,” said Muhammad Naeem Qureshi, President at National Forum for Environment and Health.

The NFEH President informed that around eight million tons of plastic material entered the oceans and seas every year in a country like Pakistan having no proper mechanism in place to deal with this issue. He highlighted that main urban centers in Pakistan, especially Karachi, lacked a proper system to dispose of tones of solid waste generated every day, so it is all the more important to significantly reduce the usage of plastic products in the country.

Shabina Faraz, Chief Executive Officer (CEO), Green Media Initiatives (GMI), said: “It is high time to develop actionable plans and initiate massive campaigns to address the issue of plastic pollution”, she added.

According to a Pakistan Navy information, more than 400 million tonnes of plastic is produced every year, half of which is designed to be used only once. Of that, less than 10% is recycled. An estimated 19-23 million tonnes end up in lakes, rivers and seas. Today, plastic clog our landfills, leaches into the ocean and is combusted into toxic smoke, making it one of the gravest threats to the planet. In addition, microplastics find their way into the food we eat, the water we drink and the air we breathe. Many plastic products contain hazardous additives, which pose a serious threat to our health.

To control plastic pollution, it is mandatory to first raise awareness of the solution to plastic pollution; river-lake-oceans cleaning drives should be conducted by NGOs and the government; reuse of shoppers to a possible level be ensured, stop throwing plastic in rivers, lakes, canals, and oceans; plastic should be recycled into new products; reduce plastic consumption to a possible largest level; refuse plastic whenever possible; say no to straws, lids, plastic bags, and plastic takeaway containers; carry your own utensils and avoid using plastic utensils; replace plastic items at home with alternatives made from natural materials; and not last but the least, governments should ban manufacturing and use of plastic bags forthwith.