Observing the World Environment Day 2023 in Pakistan
On 5 June 2023, the global community came together to address one of the most pressing environmental issues of our time: plastic pollution. With the theme #BeatPlasticPollution," this year's World Environment Day served as a wake-up call for individuals, communities, businesses, and governments to take effective action in combating the devastating impacts of plastic on our planet. IUCN Pakistan, together with the Ministry of Climate Change and Environmental Coordination and the Serena Hotels, one of the largest hotel chains in the country, jointly organised an observance event in Islamabad.
Mr Mahmood Akhtar Cheema, Country Representative, IUCN Pakistan, in his welcome address, highlighted IUCN global and Pakistan’s significant achievements including introducing community-based trophy hunting guidelines, mangroves restoration and development of the Climate Change Gender Action Plan (ccGAP). Regarding plastic pollution globally and in Pakistan, Mr Cheema emphasized that we are consuming nanoplastics through our food, water and air. About 400 million tons of plastic are produced annually, which ends up in our oceans, soil and ultimately in our food system. IUCN has taken global initiatives to combat plastic pollution, including projects like MARPLASTICCS and research on beating plastic pollution in the Baltic region.
Syed Mujtaba Hussain, Additional Secretary, Ministry of Climate Change and Environmental Coordination, stated that the ministry formulated the National Hazardous Waste Management Policy as well as the Clean Air Act, both of which focus on reducing plastic pollution in Pakistan. Currently, the ministry is working towards introducing Plastics Prohibition Regulation 2023 to completely ban the use of single-use plastics including plastic cutlery and utensils in Islamabad area. The regulation is with the cabinet and will be approved soon. The ministry is also implementing regulations to ban polythene bags, especially in Islamabad Capital Territory (ICT).
The high-level panel discussion comprised of dignitaries, which was chaired by the Minister for Climate Change and Environmental Coordination, Senator Sherry Rehman. The panel initiated with the remarks of H.E Mr. Suh Sangpyo, Ambassador, Republic of Korea in Pakistan, who shed light on the continuous collaboration between the two countries on some of the crucial projects related to renewable energy, solar street lights, hydropower projects and fight against climate change.
Mr Christopher James Warner, Senior Environment Specialist at the World Bank Pakistan, stated that with so much plastic introduced in the daily lives of human beings, almost everything has been replaced with plastic and leading to a ‘plastic crisis’. There are major economic costs associated with this such as the costs for the plastic clean-up, which are unaffordable. However, there are solutions which require maximum focus.
H.E. Ms Lianne Houben, Chargé d' Affaires, Embassy of the Kingdom of the Netherlands in Pakistan, highlighted that we all are spoiled in using plastics as easy alternative. We all have a duty not to leave it as legacy for the future generations, she added. Ms Lianne specified that only 9% of the total plastic waste is recycled globally. However, if consumers stop buying plastic, the industry will follow suitable. Alternatives that are acceptable to all parties need to be designed, she emphasized
Senator Sherry Rehman, Federal Minister for Climate Change and Environmental Coordination, stressed that youth and the public at large have a key role in exerting resistance and pressure on plastics manufacturers to phase out single-use polythene products like bags and bottles, which are causing serious pollution and environmental degradation in the country. She pointed to the need to motivate the general public to step forward and take the lead in combating plastic pollution, which is an insurmountable challenge without mass support and acceptance. "People would have to stop using plastics. MoCC is intervening in the market and meeting producers and manufacturers to begin the journey of switching to biodegradable alternatives," she said.
Syed Asim Ali Sabzwari, Environmental Expert at the Asian Development Bank, Mr Amir Goraya, Assistant Resident Representative at UNDP Pakistan; Dr Zaeem Bin Babar, Associate Professor National University of Science and Technology, also highlighted their initiatives in combatting plastic pollution.
Dr Moin Uddin from Serena Hotels noted that the hotel chain remains committed to its environmental stewardship and will continue to innovate and improve its sustainability efforts. By integrating sustainable practices, reducing plastic waste, and supporting conservation initiatives. He informed about the Serena Environmental and Educational Development Programme which is managed through its Corporate Social Responsibility initiative and underpins the response in the thematic areas of culture, environment, governance and society.
On the sidelines, a photo exhibition titled ‘After Us The Deluge’ - the work of renowned Dutch photographer Kadir van Lohuizen was organised with the support of the Embassy of the Kingdom of Netherlands. The exhibition showcased the impact of rising sea levels caused by global warming on communities.
The event was attended by representatives of international development partners, government agencies, civil society organization, academia and media.
For more information, please contact:
Manager, Communications and Knowledge Management
IUCN Pakistan, Islamabad Country Ofﬁce
Cell. +92 307 7773801