The ban on plastic along Ganges, to free the river of the menace, remains on paper as authorities have shown little interest in cracking the whip on offenders in the face of strong opposition from traders’ lobby.
The National Green Tribunal (NGT) order banning the use of plastic from Gaumukh to Haridwar came into effect on February 1 this year.
The order had said that “there shall be complete prohibition on the use of plastic….The procurement, storing and sale of plastic bags, plates, glasses and allied items are herewith prohibited”.
However, the use of plastic, in the form of bags, bottles, cans and other items, has been rampant and open in places like Haridwar and Rishikesh, where thousands of Hindu pilgrims throng, especially during festivals and auspicious days.
Authorities have done little to contain the menace, with the Haridwar Municipal Corporation seizing only 76 kg of polythene and fining different traders Rs 2.5 lakh in the last seven months.
The Haridwar municipal commissioner Vipra Trivedi refused to speak to HT on the issue.
In Rishikesh, Ganga water is collected in plastic cans by the local post office for the department’s flagship scheme to deliver Gangajal (Ganga water) by post.
Traders in the two cities allege that the green tribunal’s notification has become a “tool of harassment” for authorities.
“Whenever officials feel, they summon us and threaten to confiscate plastic products, but they don’t offer us a solution,” Kailash Keshwani, president of the trader’s association in Haridwar, complained.
“The notification on plastic ban is a good step but I think it’s a failure of administrative machinery to ensure its implementation. Moreover, there is an immediate need to sensitise pilgrims on the use of plastic,” said Mohan Rawat, an expert member with National Ganga River Basin Authority (NGRBA).
India’s longest and most revered river, the Ganga is formed by the confluence of the Alaknanda and the Bhagirathi at Devprayag. The Bhagirathi originates from the Gaumukh in the Himalayan regions of Uttarakhand.