From Modi Governments’ Plastic Ban to Sustainable Substitutes-The Blue Print for a Safer and Healthier India

Though the ban maybe termed as a significant step for a healthy environment, the success of the ban will only be possible through effective engagement and concerted actions by all stakeholders and enthusiastic public participation.

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Apart from negatively impacting the ecological balance, plastic use also adversely impacts the human health. (File)

By Kamal Narayan Omer

India under Prime Minister Narendra Modi, has already implemented a number of measures to tackle the issue of environmental protection, even before the onset of the pandemic. From the ‘Namami Gange Programme’ to the ‘Ujjwala Yojana Scheme’ from the ‘Green Skill Development Programme’ launched in June 2017 by the Ministry of Environment, Forest, and Climate Change to the immensely popular national cleanliness drive ‘Swachh Bharat Abhiyan’, the Indian government has time and again shown its seriousness towards the cause of promoting a sustainable and pollution free world for all.

In its latest initiative towards a greener world and in line with the clarion call given by Hon’ble Prime Minister of India, Shri Narendra Modi, to phase out single use plastic items by 2022, the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change has announced a ban on the use of plastic from 1st July 2022. The step is no doubt a defining step towards curbing the nuisance created by non biodegradable plastic waste and is another step towards positive waste management. Plastic pollution is most hazardous in developing Asian and African nations, where garbage collection systems are often inefficient or nonexistent.

The world is witness to the fact that the last few decades has seen irreparable damage to the ecosystem and resulted in harmful alterations that are a serious threat to life on earth and humankind. The Covid19 pandemic shook the world out of its reverie and made the human race realize that we can no longer afford to ignore the consequences of fidgeting with nature. Consequently, most of the post pandemic recovery plans are taking into account the significant role that nature and environment play in the existence of human beings as well as in their well-being. Most of the nations were quick to realize the importance ensuring a sustainable and healthy environment and prioritized it along with health infrastructure and economic development. India has time and again shown its commitment towards the cause, from launching the ‘Lifestyle for the Environment (LiFE) Movement’, a global initiative to pledging that it will achieve the target of net zero emissions by the year 2070. Time and again the Prime Minister has come up with innovative as well as stringent measures to ensure environment friendly and sustainable measures. The latest being the ban on use of single use plastics.

However, it’s the larger cause of a balanced ecosystem that will get an added boost by this action intended on limiting plastic pollution. Single-use plastics account for 40 percent of the plastic produced every year and the sad part is that many of these products, such as plastic bags and food wrappers have a lifespan of mere minutes to hours, while they take hundreds of years to decompose. Plastic pollution has not only created havoc in marine life but also polluted soil and air. Thus, creating a destructive imbalance in the flora and fauna of the earth.

Apart from negatively impacting the ecological balance, plastic use also adversely impacts the human health. According to many studies the chemicals found in plastic may have adverse effect on our bodies, including reproductive abnormalities. In addition, bisphenol A (BPA), found in polycarbonate bottles and the linings of food and beverage cans, can leach into food and drinks. A number of these chemicals have been associated with serious health problems such as hormone-related cancers, infertility and neurodevelopment disorders like ADHD and autism. BPA disrupts the body’s endocrine and BPA exposure has also been linked with high blood pressure.

Though the ban maybe termed as a significant step for a healthy environment, the success of the ban will only be possible through effective engagement and concerted actions by all stakeholders and enthusiastic public participation. Along with coercive measures, an awareness on the harmful effect of plastic use needs to be created in order to minimize the use. Relevant information will help drive the system because consumers have become health-conscious post pandemic and are keen to make healthier lifestyle choices when provided with vital information.

Also, in order to make sure that the ban doesn’t create inconvenience for the larger population, the government needs to ensure that sustainable and better options are readily available. This opportunity can be utilized to popularize the concept of locally made natural substitutes thus giving a fillip to “Make in India” and “Go Vocal for Local” initiatives. The Government of India should ensure an ecosystem for accelerated growth and availability of such alternatives all across the country. Capacity building workshops in this regard can be conducted thus providing employment opportunities to many as well. Along with the ban we need to create an ecosystem that will be helpful and encouraging for the growth of these alternate options, in the long run.

Success of the ban largely depends on effective engagement and concerted actions by all stakeholders and public participation is critical to banning SUPs. This could be accomplished with improved waste management systems and recycling, better product design that takes into account the short life of disposable packaging, and reduction in manufacturing of unnecessary single-use plastics.

Also apart from the government, civil society and citizens can ensure that they play a role in initiating this change and as they say ‘Charity begins at Home’, a small step can go a long way in not only mitigating the critical issue of toxins created by plastic but also create awareness around the issue thus motivating others to follow. Reusing disposable items instead of discarding them immediately, carrying a cloth bag on a shopping spree, opting for hade made porcelain and clay dishes in place of microwavable plastic utensils are some small but significant steps that can prove beneficial in future, if followed as a mass change.

In keeping with the World Environment Day of 2022, ‘Only One Earth’, focusing on living sustainably in harmony with nature while also ensuring that we collectively work towards a greener and healthier planet, the plastic ban can give stupendous results. However concentrated and coordinated efforts in the same direction need to be driven on- ground along with all major stakeholders so that the step gives practical results. Mere policy change cannot guarantee long term results unless it is accompanied by active participation at all levels. Hence it is the sacred responsibility of each and every citizen to ensure a positive involvement in the grass root change for the betterment of all humanity.

(The author is CEO, IHW Council. Views expressed are personal and do not reflect the official position or policy of FinancialExpress.com.)

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