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October 4, 2019

LHC seeks report on effects of blanket ban on plastic bags


October 4, 2019

LAHORE:A Lahore High Court full bench on Thursday directed the Punjab government to submit a copy of a draft bill aimed at regulating manufacturing, sale and use of polythene bags in the province and also an analysis report on effects of a blanket ban on the plastic product.

Earlier, Chief Secretary Yousaf Naseem Khokhar told the bench that the draft of a proposed legislation was almost finalised and would soon be presented before the provincial cabinet. He said the opinion of different stakeholders and experts had been taken into consideration in the process of the drafting of the bill. He said the government would introduce a sunset law to avoid abrupt effect.

The bench comprising Justice Syed Mazahar Ali Akbar Naqvi, Justice Chaudhry Masood Jahangir and Justice Jawad Hassan was hearing the multiple petitions challenging the legality of Section 3 of Punjab Prohibition on Manufacture, Use, Sale and Import of Polythene Bags Ordinance 2002, which allows manufacturing, sale and use of polythene bags above 15 microns thickness.

Punjab Advocate General Ahmad Jamal Sukhera told the bench that the draft was lying with the law secretary law and could be furnished for the perusal of the judges in a day. The bench observed that it could make some suggestions after going through the draft of the bill.

Representing the association of the polythene bag manufactures, senior lawyer Hafiz Tariq Naseem stated that the government officials started harassing the petitioners, whereas, there was no ban so far.

He said it would affect at least 360,000 families if the government put a blanket ban on manufacturing of the plastic bags. Justice Naqvi observed that lives of 190 million people could not be put at risk for the sake of a few hundred thousand.

However, the judge observed that the court would also like to know what plan the government had to compensate the people associated with the plastic bag industry. Advocate Naseem argued that smoking was more dangerous for human health than the plastic bags but it had never been banned.

He said the government should go for increasing thickness of the plastic bags instead of a blanket ban. Lead counsel of the petitioners, Salman Khan Niazi, however, said increasing thickness of the bags would be of no use.

He said the matter basically pertained to harmful effects on human health and environment by the use of polythene bags & styrofoam products (plastic straws, cups, spoons, plates, food trays and other related disposable material).

He said the polythene bags and styrofoam products were single use plastics which took thousands of years to decompose and they had been causing havoc in various areas of Punjab and were damaging the sewerage system of cities, spreading epidemics, polluting soil, causing water pollution and endangering aquatic life. The bench adjourned further hearing till October 10 and also restrained the government from taking coercive measures against the plastic bags manufacturers.

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