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ISLAMABAD:

Members of the federal cabinet have suggested the use of technology like satellites to manage the collection, transportation and dumping of solid waste.

However, they have expressed concern over the licensing regime, saying it may lead to bureaucratic hurdles and the abuse of authority.

During discussion on the National Hazardous Waste Management Policy 2022 in a recent meeting of the cabinet, there was general acknowledgment of the challenging issue and its dire consequences for the environment.

It was suggested that public awareness should be created about the environmental degradation, water wastage and electricity conservation through a media campaign during prime time under the Pemra rules for public service messages.

It was proposed that the country should use technology such as satellites to manage the collection, transportation and dumping of solid waste. The need to strengthen the Environmental Protection Agencies (EPAs) in provinces was also raised in order to effectively implement the policy measures.

Opportunities for waste-to-energy projects, the need for zoning to prevent encroachment on agricultural land and effluent treatment in industrial areas also came up for discussion.

There was consensus on the need to engage the provinces, for which the prime minister assured the cabinet of support of his office.

The Climate Change Division briefed the cabinet that the management of hazardous waste, which was toxic, infectious, corrosive, flammable and poisonous, had been an area of concern for many decades and had been included as one of the three priority areas in the United Nations Environment Programme.

Pakistan has been facing the alarming issue of dumping of hazardous waste by some of the developed and developing countries.

The absence of a clear policy direction and weak enforcement of environmental legislation regarding ban on the import of hazardous waste has resulted in increased environmental degradation in Pakistan.

Moreover, the issues of handling, storage, collection, transportation and disposal of hazardous waste in Pakistan are not being addressed in an environmentally sound manner due to the absence of legal and regulatory mechanisms.

To effectively address the above issues, the Ministry of Climate Change has formulated a comprehensive national policy, through a broader consultative process involving the relevant ministries and departments, both at the federal and provincial levels, academic and research institutes, NGOs as well as private sector organisations including industries.

The input received from all stakeholders, after incorporation into the policy document, was discussed at a national-level workshop.

The policy was also aligned with Pakistan’s obligations under the Multilateral Environmental Agreements including the Basel Convention on the Control of Transboundary Movement of Hazardous Waste and their Disposal, the Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants and the Minamata Convention
on Mercury.

In addition, it was pointed out in the cabinet meeting that the formulation of the national policy was also a requirement for getting extension in the Generalised Scheme of Preferences (GSP) Plus status for Pakistan post-2023, which would result in increased volume of exports from Pakistan to the
EU states.

The policy document was prepared keeping in view the approach to managing hazardous waste in an environmentally friendly manner.

The document provides guidance for the decision-makers on issues related to the management of hazardous waste, including the special requirements for its labelling, packaging, storage, transportation, treatment and disposal.

As a follow-up, the Climate Change Division will develop an action plan for implementation of the policy, whereas the provincial governments will devise their own strategies, plans and programmes.

It was pointed out during discussion in the cabinet meeting that the national estimate for the municipal solid waste generation was 30 million tons per annum.

Published in The Express Tribune, July 9th, 2022.

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