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No progress on KP’s plastic bag ban yet

No progress on KP’s plastic bag ban yet

Though a welcome step, things are crawling forward on the government’s recent announcement to ban the sale, manufacturing and use of plastic bags in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa as homework for it has yet to be done.

The announcement was made in the first week of August to check the choking of sanitation system and handle environmental issues but the inability and incompetence of the relevant officials and lack of coordination among the relevant departments are likely to cause the move to fail.

On one hand, the business community had rolled up their sleeves to oppose the ban but on the other, the government has some weakness to take decisions in haste without fulfilling legal requirements. The business community is of the view that if the ban is imposed, it will render them jobless.

The announcement to ban shopping bags is very easy but its imposition in real sense will remain a challenge for the government.

During background interviews with some government officials, it was learnt that the administrative order against the use of manufacturing the shopping bags could be an attractive slogan to draw attention of some people and environmentalists but it will cause financial losses to thousands of other citizens also.

They said the unemployment was fast growing and in case such steps were taken the problems for Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf government might increase. Some people are describing the ban as a conspiracy hatched by those having obtained loans from banks, who wanted to get them waived off if ban was imposed.

A source said the decision was taken in haste without fulfilling the legal requirements, taking on board the stakeholders and searching other options for accommodating the workers and owners as well.

Sharing details about the plastic bags manufacturing units, wholesalers and number of people involved with the business the source said the imposition of ban would cause unemployment of thousands of people, most those belonging to poor families in nook and corner of the province.

According to him, in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, there are 125 plastic manufacturing units where over 7000 people earn livelihood for themselves and families. Only in Peshawar, there are 55 industries and the number of labour was about 3000. Similarly, Bannu has 10 plastic industries, Gadoon industrial estate 11, Hattar (Haripur) 10, Mardan 30, Nowshera and Charsadda two each and Dera Ismail Khan five.

Similarly, at least 1,000 wholesalers are distributing plastic products in different cities of the province through 7000 workers.

Abbottabad is the hub of plastic bag distribution as it has 150 wholesalers. It is by Peshawar with 105 wholesalers, Bannu 100, Charsadda 60, Nowshera 20, Kohat has 50, Hangu 50, Timergara 60, Batkhela 80 amd Mansehra 80.

In addition, plastic bags can be purchased from every general store in major stores and street shops across the province.

The official source pointed out that the launching of a crackdown against local manufacturers and wholesalers of plastic bags would yield no positive results unless a comprehensive policy based on legislation from the assembly was adopted to give alternative source of income to the people dealing in the business.

Referring to a recent statement of provincial information minister Mushtaq Ghani, he said the local government and rural development department had initiated such an action two and a half years ago in Peshawar against the plastic bags by creating awareness among the people but it could not succeed in the drive.

Peshawar Chamber of Small Traders and Industry president Mohammad Ihtesham Haleem also opposed the unilateral decision and said local manufacturers could be forced to stop their business but the government would be unable to check the smuggling of plastic bags from other cities and abroad. He claimed that 70 percent of the bags were supplied to Peshawar from Lahore while 10 percent was supplied from Iran and it could not be stopped.

He said there was complete ban on non-custom paid items but the smuggling of various items was in progress from across the border with no proper checking. Ihtesham Haleem said it was need of the hour that the government should clean its departments from the black sheep to avoid corruption and malpractices, saying local manufacturing was not a big threat to the environment but maximum of the items were brought from other cities and countries.

He said traders could not resist any step if they’re taken for the welfare of the people but the administration was not bothered about taking the business community into confidence on it.

“We also know the negative impact of the use of plastic bags but only Pakistanis are not its manufacturers and users,” he said.

According to Ihtesham Haleem, plastic bags are used all over the world where the relevant city governments, municipal authorities have taken appropriate steps for its safe disposal but in Peshawar, there is no proper arrangement for the purpose.

The government, he said had established WSSP to timely solve the civic issues provide clean drinking water to the citizens and ensure cleanliness of the city but it failed to do the job.

“I was also a member of the board of directors of WSSP but I resigned because it is unable to honour the suggestions of its members. I did not want to get ill fame being its members.”

He said the ban on black shopping bags was a wise step but complete ban on all kinds of bags was not acceptable unless the manufacturers and labourers were given alternate source of income.

Plastic Shopping Bas Manufacturing and Wholesale Dealers Association president Haji Didar Gul Safi said the government should hold negotiations with the business community and give them alternate source of income to stop it.

He said the government should take steps for disposal of the garbage to produce electricity and fertiliser instead of closing down the business. “There are many products of multinational companies which are sold in plastic packing and the government will be unable to ban them all,” he added.

Another businessman Haji Amir Salam said the ban on plastic bags was not a solution of the problem, so the government should rather improve performance of its municipal bodies to timely dispose of garbage and clean streets, canals and drains to prevent clogging of sewerage system. He said plastic was not used for making shopping bags only and rather, it was used for packing medicines and safely transporting various sensitive items.

The businessman said the slapping of the ban was a conspiracy of some well-off people, who had got heavy bank loans and wanted to get them waived off, as such restriction was the best pretext for the purpose.

Published in Dawn, September 6th, 2015

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