MIRPUR (AJK)-Speakers including environmental experts called upon the masses to prefer using of environment-friendly biodegradable to ploythene shopping bags to avert potential threat being posed to environment in general and human health in particular.

They were addressing a largely attended seminar hosted by AJK Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) here the other day.

The EPA hosted the seminar with the coordination of the concerned DW-2 formula expertise besides local business community to raise awareness among the masses about the dangerous impact of the use of ploythene shopping bags to human health and environment.

The objective of holding the seminar was to sensitize and motivate all stakeholders to take necessary steps to impose immediate ban on use of plastic bags in AJK. The seminar was proved to be an affective source of knowledge to the masses about the dangerous use of the plastic bags.

The ceremony was addressed among others AJK EPA Director General Raja Muhammad Razaq Khan, President AJKCCI Suhail Shujah Mujahid, President Markazi Anjuman-e-Tajran Ch Muhammad Naeem, Members of the Environmental Protection Council and President Environmental Journalist Forum Altaf Hamid Rao and Country Director Muslim Hands UK Raja Arslaan Nusrat, Divisional Director Environmental Protection Agency Mirpur Muhammad Idrees and representatives of the DW-2 Formula Experts Entrepreneur.

A large number of people belonging to all segments of the civil society including officials of various stakeholder institutions, members of the business fraternity and social workers attended it.

Environmental experts including the AJK EPA DG and officials of the Punjab EPA delivered lectures on the key title of the seminar.

Addressing the seminar, the AJK EPA DG said that environment has gained great significance worldwide-as "Rights of Future Generations" are closely aligned with the "Rights of Nature". "And in order to ensure protection of environment, there are various international and regional Conventions and Agreements-to which the Pakistani government, being signatory, is equally obliged under international law to take all measures necessary to protect our serine environment."

He asserted that his institution is s eagerly pursuing multidimensional policy to achieve objectives as per law, viz: Awareness amongst stakeholders as well as Enforcement- so please remember, that you all being important stakeholders, are being taken onboard for safeguarding the nature and natural resources.

Raja Razaq underlined that the challenges to environment, are of various in number and multi-dimensional in nature. That among others includes the consistent decrease in forests and poor process of regeneration.

He continued cascading of Hydropower projects in Jhelum and Poonch basin-in many cases option of diversion of waters through tunnelling is applied; (such situations create various challenges for downstream echo system -and maintaining proper E-flow); unregulated mushrooming of Stone Crusher Plants and extraction of minerals and quarrying in un-scientific and un-pragmatic manners; Though we have small industrial zone in South but unfortunately, it is environmentally unmanaged;

Similarly, the management of municipal and hospital waste is also posing a serious threat to the environment -and it has emerged as a serious challenge for policy implementers, he added. The AJK EPA chief particularly focused on the issue of non-biodegradable plastic shopping bags. Disposable shopping bags are convenient, but they are a major source of waste and pollution in our society. Plastic shopping bags on land are one of the most common types of litter. Build ups of huge quantities of plastic bags are well known to block local drainage systems.

Razaq warned that plastic shopping bags also pose health risks to human populations over the years as they leach toxins into water supplies.

One alternative solution to these ordinary non-biodegradable plastic bags is to use Oxo-biodegradable plastic bags. Oxo-biodegradable plastic degrades due to exposure to the elements (sunlight, heat, and microorganisms). Two years is an estimation based on the average conditions. "The actual amount of time required to degrade a bag will be longer or shorter depending on the amount of exposure", he said adding that we believe this is an optimal situation.

Speakers highlighted the disastrous causes of the use of polythene shopping bags to human health and environment, advising people to immediately stop its use to avert its severe threats to the human health and environment.

Speakers informed that extensive use of plastic shopping bags has become a major environmental hazardous. They regretted that though production and use of plastic bags has been prohibited in AJK through Environmental Protection Act, 2000, it is still being used in wide range all over AJK.

They called upon the people to play their individual and collective role to fight against environmental pollution in all forms. They emphasized the need for giving up the use of plastic shopping bag forthwith.