The National Green Tribunal, on August 10 reinforced a previous ban on plastic in Delhi. Here's a look at what happened in different states in India.
The National Green Tribunal, on August 10 reinforced a previous ban on plastic. It has asked for “completely prohibiting” the use of non-biodegradable plastic bags, with a particular focus on “plastic carry bags used in Delhi markets. The NGT ordered a penalty of Rs 5,000 to violators of the ban and gave the authorities 1 week’s time to seize the current stock. It was for the third time since 2009, that Delhi attempted to go plastic-free. In that year, former chief minister Sheila Dikshit had called for a total ban, but the national capital never quite managed to sustain the ban. Interestingly, a recent report in The Indian Express said that the Delhi government and the municipal corporations collected nearly 9,000 kg of plastic, but they have no clue where to dispose if off.
The NGT order noted the “serious environmental degradation” caused by plastic bags and its harm to public health, animals in the city, and its ability to choke up drains and sewer lines, causing floods during the rainy season. An IE report claimed that apart from Delhi, there are 17 states and Union Territories that have imposed a “complete ban” on plastic bags. Here’s a look:
Two days before the NGT order, Environment Minister Harsh Vardhan gave a written reply in the Lok Sabha saying that the use of plastic carry bags had been partially banned in some pilgrimage centres, and tourist and historical places in Andhra Pradesh, Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, Goa, Gujarat, Karnataka, Odisha, Tamil Nadu, West Bengal, Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand. However, he said, “there is no proposal to impose a ban on the use of polythene bags completely throughout the country”.
Earlier in 2010, then environment minister Jairam Ramesh said in Lok Sabha, “a blanket ban (on plastic bags) is not advisable.” Interestingly, he had said that plastic in itself is not a public health hazard. It is the inability to collect plastic waste, that leads to health problems, IE reported.
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In 2016, the government notified Plastic Waste Management Rules, 2016, which regulate the manufacture, sale, distribution and use of plastic carry bags including those of compostable plastic, and plastic sheets for packaging or wrapping applications. Here is a look at some of the interesting ways some states implemented the rules.
1. When it comes to the Nilgiris, the IE reported an interesting story quoting Supriya Sahu, the district collector in 2001. She said that instead of making it a government programme, the plastic ban was made a people’s movement. She has said that people may not understand technicalities but they understand the implementation part of it. So, they used pictures of choking animals. They also explained that how plastic clogs drains and also seeps into the lakes and drinking water. This kind of patient efforts reaped benefits there. However, the dumping was not done in the most scientific way. They dumped the plastic bags in a yard, placed a layer of sand and then added another layer of plastic. But that was 16 years ago. Now, there are ample ways to treat the collected plastic bags.
2. ‘Nalla Nadu, Nalla Mannu’ became a slogan in November last year in Kannur district, Kerala. It meant ‘good village, good soil’. Five months later, there was a complete ban on plastic carry bags. Now, any kind of usage requires permission from the district officer. The IE report quoted Centre for Science and Environment’s Swati Singh Sambyal as saying that before banning any product, there is a need to offer alternative solutions; only then a fine can be imposed. She said that “banning plastic should be targeted towards behaviour change”. Similar efforts have been seen in countries like Rwanda and Kenya.
3. In 2003, Himachal Pradesh became the first state in India to ban the use of plastic. The government used rag pickers to collect them and mixed it with other things to construct roads. However, since most tourists do not know about the ban, reports have emerged that huge amounts of plastic were sent daily from Shimla to Chandigarh.
4. In Sikkim, after the ban, the government had other things to worry about. While, on one hand, a Toxics Link study in 2014 suggested that even fish and meat was sold wrapped in paper, the cause of worry was that people were burning plastic to dispose of them. The report said that the ratio was about 90 percent residents in the state.