State-run Environmental Protection Agency of AJK formally launched the use of Oxo-Biodegradable bags in Azad Jammu Kashmir and imposed a ban on the use of the non-degradable plastic bags.

Mirpur Division office of the EPA in collaboration with UK-based non-government organisation Muslim Hands hosted a ceremony of launching of the Oxo-Biodegradable bags besides highlighting the effects of the existing conventional polyethylene plastic bags being used in the country.

Addressing the launching ceremony, speakers emphasized the need for raising awareness through public awareness drive in nook and corner of the country about the use of bio-degradable bags for shopping by saying a permanent good-bye to the conventional polyethylene plastic bags in view of their extremely dangerous effects on the human health.

They said that the implementation of Environment Protection Act 2013 will have to be ensured by imposing immediate ban on manufacturing and use of the conventional non-degradable bags. For this purpose the reservations of the concerned stakeholders, the manufacturers of plastic bags have to be removed, they emphasised.

Deputy Director Environmental Protection Agency Mirpur division Sardar Idrees Mahmood said that launching of bio-degradable bags from Wednesday across AJK was also to apprise the masses of the adverse impacts of the conventional plastic shopping bags on human health and the natural environment in Azad Jammu Kashmir.

The AJK government has promulgated the regulations titled “Prohibition of Non-degradable Plasting Products (Manufacturing, Sale and Usage) Regulation, 2013 in AJK, to impose a complete check on the hazards of the use of plastic bags.

He further said that an extensive drive has also been launched to discourage the use of the non-degradable plastic products through the formal launching of the Oxo-Biodegrade bags with the coordination of the AJK Environmental Journalists Forum, AJK Environmental Lawyers Forum and The Muslim Hands.

“Say No To Plastic Bags” is the title of the mass public awareness campaign launched by EPA and Muslim Hands to promote the Oxo-Biodegradable products in this region as a joint venture, he added.

“For proper enforcement of the said prohibitory law, the AJK EPA has put a complete ban on use of conventional plastic products with immediate effect,” Idrees said. The launching ceremony, he added, would lead to the complete enforcement and implementation of the Plastic Bags Prohibitory Regulations besides sensitising the stakeholders more effectively.

Earlier, Assistant Director Environment gave detailed briefing about the harmful effects of manufacturing of polyethylene bags and their use. He said that plastic bags take thousands of years to decompose besides littering the water sources and harming the marine life.

Assistant Director Legal Khalil Gorsi said that AJK government promulgated law in 2013 to prohibit manufacturing, sale, supply, and use of polyethylene bags. He said that in case of any violation of the law the environment inspector would file complaint in the court of Environmental Magistrate. He also highlighted the salient features of the Act. He said that the EPA launched an extensive campaign through media and other means to create awareness about the prohibition of polyethylene bags.