Barrister Murtaza Wahab, the spokesperson and adviser to the Sindh chief minister on law, environment and coastal development, wants the people of Sindh to say no to plastic bags and stop taking plastic bags from shops.
“I am very passionate about the issue of plastic bags and in the past, the government has passed many orders and made laws to curb the use of plastic bags,” he explained.
He said enforcement of laws is a huge problem in Pakistan since people here always want plastic shopping bags because they find it convenient.
“We don’t even realize how much it will effect us in the future,” said Wahab told SAMAA TV on its programme Naya Din on Friday. “The plastic bag that you used for 20 minutes because it was convenient will stay in the environment for 200 to 250 years.”
He shared that he got the idea of a public awareness campaign when he went to a pharmacy and the pharmacist gave him medicines in a paper bag but then transferred that paper bag into a plastic bag.
“It struck me, why does he need to put it in a plastic bag? The same goes with shoes. It’s given in paper box but then packed in plastic shopping bag,” said Wahab. “I always used to think that we are sabotaging our future in the name of a small convenience.”
Wahab said that before implementing the ban on plastic bags from October 1, he wants to start a public awareness campaign in Sindh. He has already sought approval for the campaign from Chief Minister Murad Ali Shah. Before the ban takes effect, the provincial government will run a massive campaign to convince consumers as well as traders about the benefits of the step.
“We have more than 50 days during which we will campaign to make this ban effective,” he said. “We will reach out to people in every city and district to make our point. It’s in everyone’s interest and we firmly believe that the people will appreciate the government’s move and play their role to protect our environment. We have to move now before it’s too late.”
The adviser said that he will be launching the drive with the help of the people, media, school children, teachers, civil society and traders. “We have to engage a larger audience and make this awareness campaign successful,” he said.
Wahab explained that there are two steps: the first step is public awareness and the second is the enforcement of the law. “After October 1, the law will be effect and we will crackdown against shops or restaurants using plastic bags,” said Wahab. “But what I want is the public to be aware so that the government doesn’t even have to start a crackdown.”
He said the law can only be effective when the public takes ownership of it. “When there is no engagement and cooperation from the public, no campaign can be successful and no issues can be resolved,” said Wahab.
He revealed that the Sindh CM had already started a campaign from July 4. “The chief minister took responsibility and started a campaign from all areas of Karachi and, with the help of the city’s deputy commissioners, he made the campaign successful,” said Wahab.
He said that under the deputy commissioners’ supervision, the CBC, cantonment boards and local boards all worked together. “Because of mutual-corporation, the campaign worked well in Karachi.” He agrees that the state of cleanliness in Karachi is not ideal but claims that it’s better than before.
On Thursday, the government announced it would be imposing a ban on the use of polythene shopping bags in Sindh.
The decision was made during a meeting presided over by CM Shah. The government has imposed Section 144 on the use of plastic bags across the province. Shah said they were launching a drive ‘Say No to Plastic Bags’ and directed the authorities to encourage people to use paper or cloth bags instead.