Plastic bag nightmare continues
Despite repeated rhetoric by the authorities (March 31, 2007: No leniency in plastic bag ban says Sindh Minister for Environment and Alternative Energy, Dr Saghir Ahmed, April 30, 2007: Drive against plastic bags intensified, city district government claims, March 17, 2007:Plastic bag transportation in and out of the city to be checked says city nazim Mustafa Kamal), it has become increasingly apparent that the environment is the last thing on their agenda. Since the ban against plastic bags below the 30 micron weight limit was put into place last year, both the local city district and provincial governments have come out several times with tall claims about strict enforcement of the ban. Yet we see in practice that their claims couldn’t be further from the truth.
Plastic bags of all hues, sizes and types continue to be used (and abused through) out the city. In fact, I’m pretty sure that most of the average people of the city are not even aware of the regulation that has outlawed them (now in the whole country and not just the province as per a recent resolution passed in the national assembly). Which is where a big part of the problem lies. While government inaction is certainly a major reason behind the failure of the imposition of this ban, public indifference and apathy towards the environmental ill-effects of plastic bags certainly cannot be left out of the equation. Most people in this city simply couldn’t care less about the environment, combine this with the general disdain with we treat laws with and you have situation where almost any ban becomes completely theoretical. Unless people start caring about the environment and realise that they have a social, legal and moral obligation to use and dispose plastic bags in environmentally responsible ways, it will continue to remain immensely hard to enforce such a ban.
At the same time, I also concede that complete eradication of low-quality plastic bags is not something that can be done overnight (especially keeping in mind the need to create alternative jobs for those in the industry), however I also feel that vested interested of certain people may be causing a hindrance in achieving this. The plastic shopping bag industry is the third top revenue generating industry in the country according to a figure quoted by MNA Khawaja Sohail Mansoor, so there needs to be a phased withdrawal and re-employment plan that needs to be conjured up, but we can’t use this an excuse to show lack of political will to make environment a priority. As I have said before, with so many other problems, the government is clearly not giving too much attention to environmental issues, and while I admit that there are more pressing issues then this one, an attitude that takes the environmental for granted is increasingly perilous and may have disastrous consequences for us in the long term.
To conclude, I’ll put up a link to this photo of the menace plastic bags create, even in one of the so-called “posh” localities of the city from Flickr user Atrophy. The government, law enforcement agencies and all of us as concerned citizens of the state, should reflect on this. Is this what we want our city to continue to look like? And what sort of environment are we nurturing for our future generations in the process of our indifference to this problem?