Plastic, a non-biodegradable product that is ubiquitous in our societies, due to its cheap durable nature, is presenting major environmental and health risks. Pakistan ranks 15 in a global index of plastic waste mismanagement, with only 1.5% plastic recycled. Our production and consumption of plastic in Pakistan is also increasing; the result – the Indus River Basin, Pakistan’s major water resource, is now the second largest contributor of plastics from land to the ocean, behind only the Yangtze River in China.
In line with the Sustainable Development Agenda, and the National Assembly of Pakistan’s call to action for a Plastic-Free Islamabad, CUI is committed to tackling this plastic menace at home. While the Just Say No to Plastics campaign is in full swing at CUI, the Centre for Climate Research and Development will also contribute by dedicating its research and advocacy facilities towards management of plastics. Several CUI campuses are adjacent to streams/water channels (nullahs), which present the perfect opportunity to reduce the amount of plastic and other wastes entering the main Indus River, thereby reducing plastic movement to the oceans. As a first test effort, drawing inspiration from the Australian city, Kwinaa, the Islamabad campus of CUI has installed a waste capture fence at the nullah on the North-West side. Although the recent, extended rains have destroyed much of the fencing, due to an inability to clean the system, the concept is still attractive. Already, plastic bottles, plastic bags and other wastes, including offal, have been observed within the fenced structure, providing insights into dumping that occurs upstream. It also present an opportunity to conduct a proper waste characterization study of Islamabad streams, something that is continuously lacking.
Dedicating CUI time and resources towards such research is crucial to understanding the waste that enters our waterways, at the local level. CUI hopes to take charge of this national issue, to develop an Adopt-A-Stream Campaign as a model approach to stream health and plastic waste reduction. Through such studies across multiple campuses, utilizing participatory approaches and sensor technology, identification and recommendation of effective strategies to decision makers can allow for the development of evidence-based policy. Our key stakeholders in this initiative will include universities, schools and research institutions, working to provide plastic reduction options at streams to the National Assembly, Metropolitan Corporation of Islamabad (MCI), Capital Development Authority (CDA), Rawalpindi Waste Management Company (RWMC) and Pakistan Council for Research on Water Resources (PCRWR).