The Uttarakhand government has banned plastic across the state with effect from Monday following the National Green Tribunal order and directed all the local bodies to enforce it effectively, urban development secretary Darban Singh Garbyal said on Monday.
Penalty of Rs 5,000 will be slapped on a violator. However, the government would make a “fresh appeal to the NGT for a relaxation in view of the ongoing Ardh Kumbh fair in Haridwar, he said.
The National Green Tribunal’s (NGT) in December 2015 had directed the state government to ensure a complete ban on plastic of any kind – including carry bags, plastic plates, glasses, spoons and allied items – in all the cities falling along the Ganga and its tributaries from February 1. The NGT had also prohibited procurement, storing and sale of the said items.
However, some officials said that enforcing a total ban could be a challenge for the local bodies due to high tourist influx during the Ardh Kumbh fair and shortage of staff elsewhere. Echoing the same concern, Haridwar municipal commissioner Vipra Trivedi said, “The average floating population (visitors such as tourists and pilgrims) of the city is even higher than that of the city’s population.” However, she said five teams had been constituted to exclusively monitor the ban in the city.
The Dehradun Municipal Corporation (DMC) had banned the use of lightweight polythene bags (of thickness below 40 microns) in July 2014. But after initial rounds of prompt action, the drive lost its steam eventually, largely due to “a lack of manpower”, said municipal commissioner Nitin Singh Bhadauria.
Jayendri Rana, chairperson of Uttarkashi municipality - located around 200 kilometres away from Dehradun on the way to Gangotri – said that the municipality had “only four supervising heads” for monitoring of plastic ban for a population of around 18,000.
Additional commissioner of Garhwal Harak Singh Rawat, however, did not buy the local bodies’ argument. “It might take some time to (meet the objective), but the ban can indeed be implemented successfully if public representatives and officials take it seriously.” Rawat has worked extensively on executing polythene ban in the past.
Experts, however, said that an effective implementation of the plastic ban would not be possible unless efforts were made to supply “alternate options” to the public in the first place. “For a start, the government can make it mandatory for all schools to undertake preparation of paper or cloth bags as a part of socially useful productive work classes,” said Abhijay Negi, president Making A Difference By Being The Difference (MAD). The social group has already prepared and distributed around 4,000 paper bags among Doon locals so far.