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Zartaj Gul begins countdown to ban single-use plastic bags in Islamabad

Zartaj Gul begins countdown to ban single-use plastic bags in Islamabad

ISLAMABAD: Minister of State for Climate Change Zartaj Gul began the countdown on Tuesday to August 14, after which selling and using single-use plastic bags will become an offence punishable with a fine in the capital.

Addressing a press conference, Ms Gul said Islamabad’s two million residents consume three to four plastic bags every day.

She asked citizens to use fabric bags or bags that are decomposable to protect the environment.

“In the summary approved by cabinet, the manufacturers of single-use plastic bags within the limits of the capital will be fined between Rs100,000 and Rs500,000 after Aug 14. Implementation will be strict and raids will be carried out with the assistance of law enforcement,” she said, adding that the media and civil society should also assist the government.

Ms Gul said there was no other choice but the completely ban the consumption of single-use plastic bags, adding: “Plastic bags are the biggest problem in chocking drains, sewerage and streams.”

During her press conference, Ms Gul also highlighted the complications of transferring the management of Marghazar Zoo from the Metropolitan Corporation Islamabad (MCI) to the Islamabad Wildlife Management Board (IWMB).

“After pressure from NGOs, vigilance of civil society and cruelty to animals reported by the media, our ministry has forwarded a summary to the cabinet proposing transferring ownership from the MCI to the board. The management of Marghazar Zoo is the mandate of the Ministry of Climate Change,” she said.

Ms Gul said that the high court has also ruled in favour of the ministry, that management of the zoo should be transferred to the IWMB, under the climate change ministry.

She added: “I would like to clarify that the ministry is not in conflict with the MCI. However, the director of Marghazar Zoo is resisting the transfer and is not cooperative. He locked the gates when we went to take over control of the zoo. The zoo director is in contempt of court.”

Comparing Marghazar Zoo with the Lahore Zoo, Ms Gul said that the Islamabad zoo has an annual budget of Rs110 million, earns just Rs450,000 and is operating at a loss, while the Lahore Zoo has an annual budget of Rs130m and generated Rs33m. “Handlers and caretakers at the zoo take home the feed meant for animals,” she said.

The minister also said there would be a crackdown against cosmetics manufacturers for excessive mercury use, especially in skin whitening creams. She said her ministry had 57 local and imported skin whitening products available on the market tested.

“Only three brands were found compliant with international standards. The remaining 54 contained excessive amounts of mercury, which is injurious to health. The crackdown on the cosmetics industry will commence after Dec 31, after the paperwork is completed,” she said.

Ms Gul announced that the 10 Billion Tree plantation drive would commence after the prime minister returns from the United States. She said the slogan for the drive is: ‘Pakistan Comes Under 10 Billion Tree Tsunami’. The plan to plant 140m saplings across Pakistan during the monsoon is already underway, she said.

“Conserving water and planting more trees are the biggest challenges thrown at us by the changing climate. Pakistan is suffering losses to the tune of 5pc of its GDP due to impact of climate change,” she said. She also announced plans to take over the Margalla Hills National Park, for which a summary is being prepared.