­MIRPUR (AJK)-AJK President Sardar Masood Khan said that it is our national obligation to make collective and individual struggle to fight environmental challenges.

The president made these remarks as the chief guest of a seminar held to mark the World Environment Day organised by the Azad Jammu and Kashmir Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in the State’s capital city. This year, the World Environment Day’s theme is “Beat Plastic Pollution”.

He reiterated the need for government institutions to formulate policies and frameworks for safeguarding precious environmental resources and promote responsible attitudes. He said, “It is our religious and social responsibility to help promote similar activities and encourage sustainable and responsible production processes.”

He said that climate change and its accompanying environmental degradation are perceived to be a threat that can have incalculable consequences. He added that challenges of global climate change have been at the forefront of the international agenda in the last quarter of a century and this issue has become an area of concern for many governments across the globe.

Underlining the environmental impact of irresponsibly using plastics, especially single-use polythene bags, the president said that using such bags has led to a considerable impact on the environment and the inappropriate disposal of these bags along with its inability to biodegrade has led to toxic contaminants being introduced into the soil, ultimately poisoning the very food that we eat. He added that the excessive use of plastic bags has become a nuisance both in urban and rural settings which has deeply impacted the ecosystem. He added that if this trend continues, it is said that by 2050 plastic will exceed the number of fish in the world’s oceans.

Masood also emphasised the need to protect the environment by planting more samplings and ensuring proper treatment of sewage and solid waste. He said that the AJK government in this regard has taken steps to promote plantation in all the districts of AJK. He added that after the federal government, the AJK government is also promulgating its climate change policy which aims to mitigate climate change, spur sustainable development and avert greenhouse gas emissions.

Underlining the importance of the government’s role in protecting the environment, the president said that through legislation the government must adopt punitive measures against any violation. He added that responsible activities must also be incentivized. The protection of environment and the ecosystem be an integral part of organizations’ social responsibilities, he said.

The president said that AJK had a diverse fragile ecosystem prone to natural disasters like earthquake and floods that need to be protected. Therefore, he added, the government has embarked on an ambitious plan in order to slow down melting of glaciers.

He said that it has also led to the AJK government to vigilantly take steps to ensure all the construction projects strictly conformed to the environmental requirements and protocols.

Additional Chief Secretary and Secretary AJK Environmental Protection Agency Dr Syed Asif Hussain Shah, Director General of Environmental Protection Agency AJK Raja Razzaque Khan, Country Representative International Union for Conservation of Nature-Pakistan Akhtar Cheema, Prof Dr Haleem Khan, Vice Chancellor AJK Women University Bagh, and members of recently-formed Environmental Protection Council of AJK Government were also present.