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Pakistan: Stop Dumping On Us

Globalization is often touted as the solve it all solution of the problems this world faces today. However there are several very highly toxic effects of globalization as well. For instance these seemingly dissipating borders means that the western world has been and even now is engaged in dumping its plastic and medical waste to third world countries. They are able to do so as there is a lack of whistle blowing as well as checks and balances in countries like Pakistan, which has been subjected to dumping for the last 30 odd years.

Skeptic life reports:

As it is, there is no systematic method of medical waste management in Pakistan. Not all medical facilities have incinerators and it is not uncommon to find possibly contaminated waste in open trash heaps. The last thing we need is hazardous waste from other countries adding to the problem, especially when this waste can be infected and cause diseases such as hepatitis and AIDS.

Untreated medical wastes are drained into the sea. Image by Raja Islam. Copyright Demotix (1/11/2010).

Untreated medical wastes are drained into the sea. Image by Raja Islam. Copyright Demotix (1/11/2010).

Uroos reports on her visit to a garbage heap in Lahore:

On my visit to Lahore two days ago I along with some other media friends of mine took a drive down to Shadran which is the scrapyard heaven in Lahore. I see crushed plastic, piles of medical waste, IV tubes and infusion bags lying on the ground in warehouse and people coming to buy them, I caught hold of one of the kids who works there, to my utter shock he tells me that local manufacturers who make plastic products even down to utensils come and buy this scrap to reuse!

Green action reports on the dumping of plastic waste in Pakistan:

At present, there are hundreds of importers and buyers in Pakistan who are trading different used plastic items and materials. Definitely these types of used items are economically cheap and very cost effective, especially for the average buyer in the Pakistani market. But, the overall hazards resulting due to the unrestrained and uncontrolled usages of these used plastic items outweigh the so-called benefits and advantages.Sipping water from a used pet bottle would not be an ideal option for any health-conscious individual living in any part of the world, but there are a number of traders in Pakistan rejoicing the economic benefits offered by the treasured rubbish, that is discarded by the more developed countries of the world

One begins to wonder, how are Pakistan’s authorities allowing this dumping of hazardous materials on our soil? The case though is a multilayered one with many of these materials being passed off and misdeclared in our customs under “plastic scrap” and other categories to be cleared and sold off by importers. What they cannot sell off they dispose, so they are hand in hand with the whole process. Many of our hospitals too are often found disposing medical waste in their own backyards or adjacent rubbish heaps, to the extent that several unborn fetuses have been routinely popping up all over Karachi in waste heaps.

Day and night news reported on just such an incident on their blog:

In a what comes across as callous disregard for public safety, around 900 kg of bio medical waste(BMW), including used syringes, blood-stained cotton gauze and bandages packed in plastic disposable bags, has been dumped in the open in the compound of the UT administration’s flagshiphospital, GMCH-32.The fact that the hospital is one of the most frequented and trusted institutes of the region only add to the culpability of those who allowed this. With this, thousands of people including the staff, patients and their attendants have been rendered vulnerable to deadly infections.

Non-degradable plastics in a garbage dump in Karachi. Image by Syed Yasir Kazmi. Copyright Demotix (15/12/2009).

Non-degradable plastics in a garbage dump in Karachi. Image by Syed Yasir Kazmi. Copyright Demotix (15/12/2009).

Pakistan today also discussed in detail the joys of importing plastic waste borne diseases in Lahore:

In Pakistan purchasing diseases is quite an easy task. In fact if you want to purchase an infection from an operation theatre of Germany or Japan all you have to do is to go to any one of the bulk traders of post consumer hazardous plastic scrap in Shahdara market and tell him to sell you HIV, Hepatitis C or Tuberculosis. The rates vary with good infections fetching from Rs 100 to 150 per kg. You might be wondering what this is all about. Day in and day out we all talk about the lack of accountability in Pakistan. The authorities that are responsible for ensuring accountability are those working in connivance with plastic scrap traders of Lahore to ensure clearance of containers carrying thousands of tones of infection into our local market.

Although a strengthening and overhaul of customs law as well as more diligence on control of such imports will prove useful. It is of utmost importance that local communities get involved in keeping our country clean of such products. For this purpose reporting such waste piles are key, too long have we been exposed to harmful diseases due to lack of vigilance. The effort will require us to not drive past burning heaps of open air rubbish in our city and stop to ask why and who is exposing us to these hazardous materials. More can also be achieved by organizing community cleaning drives and not restricting them to beach fronts.

Only if we ourselves show care for the environment around us can we effect change in keeping it safe and livable here in Pakistan.

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