From the world’s tallest peaks of the Himalayas up north, to the seemingly never-ending Thar Desert that merges into the Arabian Sea in the south, Pakistan encompasses a diverse panorama.

The picturesque landscape leaves a person in absolute awe and perhaps, if you’re like me, even a bothersome vexation once one spots the unavoidable plastic bags, cigarette butts, glass bottles and food wrappers further adorning the scenery.

With rapid urbanization, exponential population growth and an inadequate garbage disposal system, Pakistan’s metropolitan and rural areas are replete with litter.

Young and old, rich and poor, educated and illiterate, religious and liberal; one can observe people of all sorts throwing their trash out on to the nearest, most convenient spot.

An understated social and environmental issue of little to no discussion, littering in Pakistan is a loftier problem than it seems and requires much awareness, dialogue, more access to well-marked trash bins in all public spaces and enforcement of fines to those caught littering.

While the most basic cause of pollution is littering, the government response to stop littering is lacking. There have been anti-littering drives by local development authorities in major cities including drives by the Capital Development Authority in 2011 here in Islamabad, which would impose fines on individuals who litter.

However, it seems there was little to no enforcement. There needs to be enforcement of these fines country-wide to instill civic responsibility and genuine care for this “Land of the Pure” or ‘Pak-Watan,’ as many Pakistanis ironically call it.

More importantly, Pakistan’s garbage disposal system needs to be reformed. There is no adequate solid waste disposal system in place and as a result there are countless amounts of uncollected garbage which eventually makes its way into streets, empty land, farmland, ponds, rivers, etc.

Not only is this issue detrimental to the environment and causes pollution, it also undeniably increases public health risk, making the population vulnerable to malaria, respiratory allergies, cholera, skin diseases, etc.

Furthermore, most waste management policies are implemented in larger cities, albeit not as effectively, and most of the country’s towns, villages, rural and remote areas are ignored. The government must make a collective, integrated effort to address this issue and implement policies that can be monitored for effectiveness.

Moreover, instead of waiting on the government to take measures to reform the garbage disposal system or prevent littering, organizations to spread awareness or other people to pick up after themselves, it is imperative for individuals who recognize this issue to not contribute to it and to dispose of their trash properly.

In  the words of Leo Tolstoy:

“Everyone thinks of changing the world , but no one thinks of changing himself.”

There is no excuse for littering. If a trash bin is nowhere in sight, keep a bag in the car and dispose the trash regularly. Spread awareness to the people in your circles and encourage them not to litter. Shoot, go all out and even hold a clean-up in your community.

Do something! If nobody makes an individual effort, then this beautiful country will have little beauty left to it and the environment, natural resources and ecosystems will continue to experience immense damage, as they already have.

So please, for the love of this land, pick up after yourselves!