MIRPUR (AJK)   -   In a swift move to ensure pollution-free environment in Azad Jammu and Kashmir, the state-run Environment Protection Agency Wednesday imposed complete ban on manufacturing, sale and use of non-degradable plastic shopping bag with immediate effect across the state, it was officially announced.

Disclosing this, Director General Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Raja Muhammad Razaque Khan told media here on Wednesday that on the directives of the State government, a ban has been imposed on production, sale and use of the non-degradable (polythin) anti-environment shopping bags throughout AJK.

“Those found involved in designing, manufacturing, sale or using anti-environment and anti-human body plastic shopping bags would be penalized under regulation Act-2013 of the manufacturing, use and sale of the non-degradable plastic products”, the DG said, adding that it could result in award of fine and rigorous imprisonment or both to the convict by the court of law. Razaque, a seasoned environmentalist, underlined that the rising trend of the use of anti-environment plastic shopping bags and other products has become a big challenge and threat to the human beings and the livestock at surface and underwater - besides causing great harm to the environment with climate changes. “It has, therefore, become much imperative to overcome such alarming situation with an immediate effect”, he said.

Meanwhile, while kicking off the drive to get implemented the state prohibitory orders of imposition of ban on production, sale and use of the non-degradable plastic shopping bags, a high-power team of the environmentalist officials of the EPA AJK led by the DG, Wednesday visited markets in the state’s metropolis to review level of sale and use of environment-friendly degradable shopping bags - besides persuade shopkeepers to shift from anti-environment plastic bags to the environment-friendly degradable shopping bags.

Visiting shop to shop for several hours in the wake of the drive against anti-environment plastic shopping bags, the EPA DG advised the shopkeepers to focus on selling their products including edibles containing in the degradable or cloth-made bags. The EPA team got the available plastic shopping bags in the market tested by the laboratory to ensure its make of the degradable plastic material.

On the occasion, the EPA DG told reporters that the manufacturing, sale and use of non-degradable plastic shopping bags is totally banned world over because of its hazardous affects on human body, livestock and overall environment. “We will have to save the coming generations from such hazardous affects of the use of anti-environment plastic bags”, he emphasized.

He said that since complete ban on throwing garbage in rivers in AJK has also been imposed, the government has decided to take immediate action against those found involved in violating the ban. He said, while responding to a question, that all government departments concerned have been directed to strictly monitor the implementation of the ban.

To a question, the EPA DG said that following the environment-friendly approach, the AJK Prime Minister Raja Farooq Haider Khan is committed to ensure pollution-free environment in the scenic AJK.

“EPA is actively engaged across AJK to translate the PM’s vision in to reality in letter and spirit.

Meanwhile, environmentalists, especially the general population across AJK have appreciated the ban on production, sale and use of the non-degradable shopping bags.