Nobody can disagree or oppose the decision to ban the plastic bags in federal capital Islamabad. Undoubtedly, plastic bags are causing huge damage to our environment. The plastic bags are paying key role in choking the sewerage lines. The ban on plastic bags is a welcome development. But at the same time, government should take measures and steps to save thousands of jobs that could be lost in the process.
It is a positive side of the ban that it will reduce the pollution in the city but there is a negative side of this ban. It is important to save the environment but even more important is to save the livelihood of thousands of families. It is the responsibility of the state to protect its citizens and their rights. This situation can lead to point where hundreds of families will be forced to starve.
This ban has caused thousands of job losses in the federal capital. It seems that no home work was done before the imposition of plastic ban in federal capital to save thousands of jobs associated with this business. It has brought starvation for thousands of people linked with the plastic bag production and sale business.
Three businesses have been directly hit by this ban. The manufacturing, distribution and sales and printing businesses of plastic bags have been affected. The ban has directly and indirectly affected many households as most of the factories manufacturing them have either been shut down or their employees have become victims of downsizing. Similarly, a huge number of people working on daily-wages with plastic bag distribution, wholesale or retail businesses are finding it hard to earn bread for their families.
A number of printing factories, which printed labels on bags, have also wound up their business, creating unemployment for thousands of poor labourers and workers.
Women on the outskirts of federal capital and Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa, who were running small machines at homes for making plastic bags, say their only source of income has been wiped off with the ban. These women have become vulnerable to food insecurity and even starvation. The distribution business of plastic bags has declined overnight and a number of businessmen associated with the business are on the verge of bankruptcy.
Many women who were involved in this business complained that the sudden decision of the government to ban plastic bags had made them unemployed. The government should have prepared an alternate plan before imposing this ban. They said that they are the only bread earners of their families. They were depending on this business to feed their children and to send them to schools. This ban will make their lives more miserable and problematic.
Not only factory owners but daily-wage workers linked with the business were facing extreme difficulties in prevailing period of economic downturn and lack of jobs. The government should provide employment to labourers, who had lost their jobs due to ban in order to help them meet their kitchen expenses and afford food for their children.
To enforce the ban on plastic bags, the district administration has started to raid businesses which still using the plastic bags. The Rawalpindi Chamber of Commerce and Industry (RCCI) has shown serious concerns on a recent wave of raids, sealing and closure of shops and food outlets on account of plastic bag ban. There is resentment in the traders against the forced implementation of this ban.
RCCI president said that traders were already showing compliance to environment friendly polythene bags. It was very unfortunate that the given activity resulted in the harassment of the business community and halted the actual cause of the motive.
Traders do support government initiative of plastic free and environment friendly business activities in the cities. However, a detailed mapping of opportunities in the industry for recycling of plastic, cost and availability of substitutes of single-use plastic bags is needed.
New jobs can be created through the establishment of recycle industry. The government should sit down with stake holders and draw up a strategy to start new businesses to deal with unemployment issue.
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20 September, 2019