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Punjab’s Plastic Menace

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Punjab's Plastic Menace

Ludhiana: The sight of polythene bags chocking drains has become a familiar one in Punjab, despite the fact that the state has a five-year-old legislation to ban bags of less than 30 microns thickness.

However, the state government and the Punjab Pollution Control Board (PPCB) have an escape route for failing to act: The Punjab Plastic Carry Bags (Manufacture, Usage and Disposal) Control Act 2005, which was passed and adopted by the Vidhan Sabha in 2005, was amended a year later and that amendment has not been notified.

According to the September 2006 amendment, the state had given 18 months to manufacturing units to stop making poly bags of less than 30 micron thickness. But with the amended law yet to be notified, its clauses 14 and 17, which specify punishment and penalties for violators, are still exempted from implementation.

Consequently, municipal authorities and deputy commissioners have no powers to penalize manufacturers or suppliers of such poly bags, which are easily found at retail outlets.

Punjab plastic manufacturing units association president MS Dhingra blamed the state government and PPCB for their “callous attitude“ in implementing the environmental norms both at the manufacturing as well as the trading and consumer levels.

“It is a trade worth Rs 2 crore every day,“ Dhingra said, admitting that bags as thin as 10 microns were still being manufactured across the state without any regulation.

“The government has never called us to discuss such a crucial issue that affects our livelihoods,“ he said.

At least 800 plastic bag manufacturing units existed in Punjab, with 250 in Ludhiana and about 100 each in Jalandhar and Amritsar, he said. “Their hands are tied because of the demand of thin (less than 20 microns) bags at the retailer end,“ he said. “Every shopkeeper wants more number of bags in one kg of plastic bags that costs Rs 95 to 100 a pack.“ PPCB ROLE PPCB member secretary Babu Ram said the complaints, if any, did not reach the PPCB headquarters at Patiala as the board’s regional officers were “already doing their job“.

Brushing aside the query on the board’s role in checking hazardous polyethylene bags, the senior official said there was no such mechanism where the board could act directly, and local authorities like municipal bodies should take the lead in banning these bags.

An official of the Muktsar municipal committee said on the condition of anonymity that they had raided two wholesale dealers of poly bags but the supply of the banned polyethylene continued due to “political pressure“.

SOUTH ASIA

Pakistani Anti-graft body wants travel ban on Nawaz Sharif, kin

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Nawaz sharif

Pakistan’s anti-corruption watchdog has asked authorities to place ousted premier Nawaz Sharif, his daughter and son-in-law on the Exit Control List to prevent them from leaving the country.

The National Accountability Bureau (NAB) sent a formal request to the ministry of interior. The interior ministry officials confirmed that the NAB wrote that names of Sharif, his daughter Maryam Nawaz and son-in-law Capt (retd) Muhammad Safdar should be put on the Exit Control List (ECL), which listed individuals not allowed to leave Pakistan.

The NAB argued that as the trial of the three nears its conclusion, it is feared that they would leave the country.

Earlier, a similar request to place name of finance minister Ishaq Dar on ECL was not accepted, allowing him to go to London and never return.

Sharif, 68, and his family this week filed an application with the accountability court seeking a fortnight’s exemption from personal appearance from February 19 onwards to let them go to London to see Sharif’s ailing wife. Three cases were filed against Sharif and his family last year, including Avenfield properties, Azizia & Hill Metal Establishment, and Flagship Investments.

Maryam and Safdar are accused only in Avenfield properties case. The NAB had filed two supplementary references against Sharif, his sons Hasan and Hussain regarding Al-Azizia Steel Mills & Hill Metal Establishment and Flagship Investment cases.

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SOUTH ASIA

Pakistan “breaches obligations’ on nuclear arms reduction, UN court told

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The Hague: Pakistan is violating its “obligations” to the international community by failing to reduce its nuclear arsenal, the Marshall Islands told the UN’s highest court on Tuesday.

The small Pacific Island nation is this week launching three unusual cases against India, Pakistan and Britain before the International Court of Justice.

Majuro wants to put a new spotlight on the global nuclear threat, its lawyers said yesterday, by using its own experience with massive US-led nuclear tests in the 1940s and 1950s.

“Pakistan is in breach of its obligations owed to the international community as a whole,” when it comes to reducing its nuclear stockpile, said Nicholas Grief, one of the island nation’s lawyers.

Islamabad and its nuclear-armed neighbour India “continue to engage in a quantitative build-up and a qualitative improvement” of their atomic stockpiles, added Tony deBrum, a Marshallese government minister.

DeBrum warned that even a “limited nuclear war” involving the two countries would “threaten the existence” of his island nation people.

Pakistan and India have fought three wars since independence from Britain in 1947, two of them over the disputed Himalayan territory of Kashmir.

In 1998, the rival neighbours both demonstrated nuclear weapons capability.

The ICJ’s judges are holding hearings for the next week and a half to decide whether it is competent to hear the lawsuits brought against India and Pakistan — neither of which have signed the 1968 nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT).

A third hearing against Britain — which has signed the NPT — scheduled to start on Wednesday will be devoted to “preliminary objections” raised by London.

The Marshalls initially sought to bring a case against nine countries it said possessed nuclear arms: Britain, China, France, India, Israel, North Korea, Pakistan, Russia and the United States.
Israel has never admitted to having nuclear weapons.

But the Hague-based ICJ, set up in 1945 to rule in disputes between states, has only admitted three cases against Britain, India and Pakistan, because they have accepted the ICJ’s compulsory jurisdiction.

Pakistan’s lawyers did not attend Tuesday’s hearings.

It did however file a counter-claim against Majuro’s allegations saying “the court has no jurisdiction to deal with the application” and insisting that the case is “not admissible”, said ICJ President Ronny Abraham.

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SOUTH ASIA

Bangladesh to drop Islam as official religion following attacks on Hindus

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Bangladesh to drop Islam as official religion following attacks on Hindus

New Delhi: Bangladesh is likely to drop Islam as its official religion following a series of attacks on people from other faiths in the country. The country’s Supreme Court is hearing a plea challenging the status of the official religion of the country to Islam.

Bangladesh, which was declared a secular country after its formation in 1971, was declared an Islamic country following a constitutional amendment in 1988.

According to a report in the Daily Mail, the plea has challenged the declaration of Islam as the national religion of the country.

The move is being supported by leaders from the minority communities like Hindus, Christians and Muslim minority Shiites.

Bangladesh has 90 per cent of Muslims, 8 per cent Hindus and remaining constitutes Christians and Muslim minority Shiites.

In last month, a Hindu priest was hacked to death following an attack on a temple in Panchgarh district. Two others were seriously injured in the attack. There have been several lethal attacks on writers and bloggers.

According to a report in the Independent, Islamist groups Jumatul Mujahedeen Bangladesh and Ansarullah Bangla Team are believed to have carried out at least seven attacks on foreign and minority people in Bangladesh in the past year.

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Temple

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