PESHAWAR: Dr Amhad Ali Khan, on Saturday said they have imposed a ban on manufacturing of plastic bags as well as sale and purchase of polythene bags to protect the environment. The step has been taken to protect humans, wildlife and aquatic creatures from threats of plastic pollution and ensure restoration of ecosystem, he remarked. The EPA official told APP that they have also banned polythene products in KP. They have also started taking action against companies that are manufacturing, selling and purchasing polythene bags, adding, cases were being filed against the violators which would be sent to the Environmental Tribunal, Peshawar for further inquiry. “The Environmental Tribunal has the power to impose a heavy fine from Rs 50,000 to Rs five million, confiscate the entire stock or impose Rs 100,000 fine per day or send the accused behind bars,” he said. Muhammad Irshad Khan, senior Analyst EPA told APP that polythene bags were a major contributor to plastic pollution in the country including KP since these bags had made their way into the market since 1960. “Back polythene bags are more dangerous for humans because of its repeated usage without proper recycling, ultimately exposing the consumers to serious ailments including intestine infections, vomiting, digestive problems and premature births”, he stated. He said large-scale production and an excessive use of plastic products had created enormous environmental challenges to humans, wildlife and aquatic creatures worldwide and feared that plastic waste in canals, rivers and oceans would affect the aquatic life adversely in the next 40 to 50 years if its dumping continued at such an alarming scale. “Polythene bags normally take 100 to 1500 years to fully decompose in soil besides have drastic negative effects on living creatures mostly in third world countries especially in the SAARC region,” EPA analyst said. He said micro plastic could not be seen with the naked eye and when it comes in contact with heat, it is converted into smaller particles causing thick air pollution and becoming part of the food cycle for all living creatures. Following expiry of the June deadline, a grand operation was launched in KP for seizure of polythene bags from markets and factories under the Prohibition of Non-degradable Plastic Products (Manufacturing, Sale and Usage) Rules 2016. Chief Analyst EPA said 4,000 environment laws’ violations cases were sent to the Environmental Tribunal (ET) and a fine of Rs 60 million was imposed so far. Dr Aftab Ahmed, Director Livestock Department told APP that micro plastic particles might cause serious health risks like cancers, development issues in children and animals besides fatigue, endocrine disruption, obesity and premature births through air, water and edible items mostly fish and meat. “The animals and wildlife become victims of polythene bags and eventually die due to malnutrition as it badly affects their digestive system,” he said. Deedar Ahmad, former Assistant Director EPA said plastic pollution was a global issue and members of United Nations should join hands for its eradication. While referring to a study of United Nations Environment Program, he said every year, approximately 500 billion plastic bags were being used globally, adding that about eight million tons of plastic ends up in canals, rivers and oceans, which is equivalent to a truck filled with garbage every minute worldwide. He said about 60 million plastic bags were being bought per hour, and only 14 percent of the total used was recycled while the rest was disposed of into oceans and rivers. Approximately 6000 plastic factories were operating in the country including 60 percent in Punjab, 30 percent in Sindh, 7 percent in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and 3 percent in Balochistan. He said plastic companies were asked to use one percent of the ‘D2W’ chemical in plastic bags being to attract bacteria which would ensure its easy biodegradation within a few years but majority of it did not fulfill the required standards and were subsequently banned. Most of the urban waste management companies were focusing on picking waste from communal bins in urban areas but overlooked canals and rivers and once it is burnt, hazardous gases like Dioxins pollute the air. Moreover, plastic and water pollution in rivers Kabul and Swat had endangered the Mahsher and Trout fish, he said. He said the disposal of hospital waste was a big challenge and an inclusive approach was required for a quick and safe disposal of syringes, bloods bags and others waste. The users must be sensitized to understand the gravity of this issue, adding that the role of media and religious scholars was also imperative to tackle this problem. He urged consumers to use cloth bags as an alternate to plastic bags.