KARACHI - It is high time that the provincial governments should come up with a firm timeline to phase out plastic products generating highly harmful waste that causes serious damage to the environment especially to the marine ecology nearby Pakistani coastline.

Speakers of a seminar on “Impact of plastic pollution on our life” Wednesday demanded that a deadline should be given by the government for producers of plastic products to compulsorily use bio-degradable plastic to prevent further spread of the plastic waste.

National Forum for Environment & Health (NFEH) in collaboration of United Nations Environmental Program, Bahria Foundation & Sindh Environment Protection Agency organised the moot to mark the World Environment Day in view of this year’s theme of the day “Beat plastic pollution”.

Speakers of the moot demanded that the law should be strictly implemented to penalise whosoever was responsible for spreading plastic waste including manufacturers, traders, retailers, consumers, and municipal agencies that otherwise are responsible to safely dispose of such trash.

Commodore (r) Syed Zafar Iqbal, director LNG Project of Bahria Foundation, said it was a highly remorseful fact that the country’s shoreline was being treated as a huge garbage dump.

He said that 13 to 14 drain lines of the city were constantly discharging untreated sewerage and industrial effluent directly into sea causing massive harm to marine environment and life of the area.

He said that a third world country like Ghana didn’t ever allow such untreated discharge of sewerage and effluents into the sea.

He said that marine environment in the vicinity of Keamari port had become highly polluted to the extent that merchant vessels were virtually floating on garbage dumped near the sea port.

Zafar Iqbal  said that when he had joined Pakistan Navy back in early 1970s condition of the sea near Keamari port were much clean so much so that one could easily swim there. While children of the local communities had developed the hobby to collect coins from the seabed in order to show acrobats to visitors of the port area.

He said that Bahria Foundation along with the concerned organisations like the WWF and NFEH would launch an awareness campaign for fishermen communities living in the coastal areas in order to make them fully alert about hazards of the marine pollution.

He said that LNG Terminal Project of Bahria Foundation in Sonmiani Bay area would fully take into account the cause of conserving coral reefs in the nearby marine area especially at the famous marine protected area of Charna Island.

Saquib Ejaz Hussain, a concerned environmental consultant who also conducted the moot, said that plastic waste was accounted for up to 65 percent municipal and industrial garbage being generated in the country.

He said that according to certain estimates, up to 13 million tonnes of plastic waste was dumped into the sea every year in Pakistan.

He said that disposable products should be manufactured using bio-degradable plastic in order to curb air and marine pollution when the major cities like Karachi didn’t have proper landfill sites for running an efficient waste management system.

He lamented the situation that instead of properly being disposed of, plastic waste mixed with other municipal garbage was willfully being dumped at the Karachi’s shoreline to reclaim land under sea to build post housing schemes.

Dr Nuzhat Khan from National Institute of Oceanography said the system of community shredders should be introduced to the communities living in the coastal areas in order to properly dispose of plastic waste as the recycling of plastic material would also generate economic activity for these low-income families.

She said that coastal communities should be encouraged to collect plastic waste for its recycling instead of burning it as this practice releases highly harmful effects on marine life and environment.

Brig (r) Tariq Lakhiar of Sindh Engro Coal Mining Company said that Thar coal and power project was being expeditiously completed while fully taking care of environment of the area and by planting one million trees in the semi-desert area of Sindh.

He said that after doing Thar Coal and power project, Engro would invest to do renewable energy projects of solar and wind power in Balochistan.

Afia Salam, a senior environmental journalist, said that brick kilns working outside the city areas had now started burning plastic waste for their operations as the kiln operators didn’t find any other less harmful material including woods for burning.

She said that wherever the recycling of plastic waste was not a feasible option, the concerned citizens should adopt the firm habit to refuse usage of such wasteful plastic products.

Imran Sabir, deputy director (Technical) of Sindh Environmental Protection Agency (SEPA), said that owing to efforts of the SEPA, some 2,300 million kilograms of bio-degradable plastic products had been introduced in Sindh.

He said that a number of big departmental, super stores, and renowned companies in Karachi had adopted the practice of using and selling disposable products made up of bio-degradable plastic as this campaign should further be promoted for the other concerned sections of the society.

Waqar Hussain Phulpoto, director (Technical) of SEPA, said that SEPA had just 16 inspectors in a big city like Karachi while the provincial environmental watchdog had no district level offices in the province.

He said that despite all these limitations the SEPA had started taking due penal and lawful action against organizations and agencies spreading pollution and causing damage to the environment as prosecution for such cases had been initiated even against certain district municipal corporations and hospitals in Karachi which were involved in unsafe disposal of municipal and solid waste.

NFEH President Naeem Qureshi said that Pakistan had emerged as the major hub in the entire South Asian region manufacturing different products through recycling of plastic waste but no standardization or regulatory system was present to keep a check on this flourishing industry. He said that government should announce a clear-cut deadline after which disposable products made up of bio-degradable plastic should compulsorily be used in the entire country in order to conserve the environment.