Karachi generates 20, 000 to 24, 000 tons per day of municipal solid waste of which 19 percent is plastic waste generated every day which is 3800 tons per day and 1.39 million tons per year. These views were shared by the Director of the Institute of Environmental Studies of the University of Karachi (UoK) Prof Dr Moazzam Ali Khan while addressing a one-day seminar on World Environment Day on Monday. The theme of this year’s World Environment Day is ‘Beat plastic pollution’.
Plastic pollution in the marine environment is the cause of several hazardous and ecologically damaging effects. Plastic debris poses a direct threat to wildlife as well as humans. Since 1950, about 8.3 billion tons of plastic have been produced globally and 6.3 billion tons of plastic waste have been generated of which nine percent was recycled, 12 percent incinerated, and 79 percent accumulated or abandoned in the environment.
The KU-IES in collaboration with the non-governmental organizations Helping Hands, Soorty Enterprises, Ertex, Islamic Relief, and Farozaam Environment Magazine arranged the seminar at the Institute to spread awareness regarding the hazards created by pollution.
Professor Dr Moazzam Ali Khan said that most of the plastic components do not biodegrade, instead, they are defragmented as microplastics. He mentioned that plastics entering marine environments were estimated to be 12.2 million tons in 2015 of which 94 percent was estimated to go to sea, one percent remained floating on the ocean surface, and five percent remains on beaches.
Meanwhile, the KU VC Professor Dr Khalid Mahmood Iraqi said that the world population is growing rapidly and the population doubling years have reduced from 200 years down to 25 years, especially in developing countries.
He quoted that as per the UNDP report, only 40 percent of total solid waste produced every day is managed properly, and the remaining is contaminating soil and water resources. These million tons of plastics have modified the landscape of our cities and towns. We have to find the solutions to beat plastic pollution and we should start from ourselves. If you are successful in beating plastic pollution at the individual level we could be able to beat it at the national level.
He shared new technological and industrial developments in the past several decades have revolutionized the quality of life but on the other hand have also proved disastrous for mankind. We cannot forget Hiroshima, Bhopal, and Chornobyl disasters.
“At the present rate of development and economic growth, we are rapidly depleting the natural resource base on which man’s existence depends. For sustainable growth, we need to look into it objectively.”
He observed that several steps are needed in order for all countries to contribute their share toward solving global environmental problems. We have to spread more information about the environment and development throughout the world. A heightened environmental awareness is necessary to ensure a reorientation of modern civilization so that we can achieve reconciliation with nature instead of appearing, as we so often do now, to be in conflict with it.
The KU VC Professor Dr Khalid Iraqi believes that this kind of adaptation will call for economic growth and social progress. It is essential that this growth should take place mainly in developing countries and that it shall not be confined, as it is at present to countries that are already prosperous.
The Dean Faculty of Science Professor Dr. Samina Bano shared that the major goal of the annual event is to raise awareness of the value of the resources on our planet and the need to protect them. Plastic is toxic and can kill wildlife making them susceptible to disease. Animals can become trapped and injured by plastic and it disrupts habitats making it hard for some species to live and bread naturally.
She said that marine life such as seabirds, whales, fishes turtles mistake plastic waste for prey and most of them die of starvation as their stomach is fitted with plastic. These particles are largely persistent and consequently accumulate in exposed individuals presence of microplastics has already been demonstrated in various human organs including the lung, the gastrointestinal system, and blood raising concerns about their possible harmful effects.
She said that plastic pollution could be reduced by introducing reusing plastic products and material wastages, innovation raise models like glass, steel bottles cloth, or jute shopping bags, and plastic-free dental core alternatives, and believed that plastic-free packaging may reduce plastic pollution and save cost.
The President of Farozaan Environment Magazine Mahmood Alam Khalid said that climate change has put a question mark on the survival of this planet. Scientists are shy and afraid about the future climate change, and unfortunately, we are not able to work seriously regarding the issue.
Dr Ahsan from the KU chemical engineering department, Syed Danish Ali of Soorty Enterprise, Muhammad Adeel Akram of Helping Hand, and others also addressed the seminar.