After coming in at a dismal 67th position among 73 cities in the ‘Swachh (cleanliness) ranking’ done by the Central government, the officials of Ghaziabad municipal corporation on Thursday launched a public awareness campaign, ‘polythene free Ghaziabad’, to rid the city of plastic waste.
Under the drive, the officials claimed that nearly 650 large bags were distributed to volunteers at 241 locations to collect plastic waste. Nearly 50,000 pamphlets were also distributed during the two-hour campaign.
However, environment activists said the city needed more than just a “cosmetic campaign”. They said authorities should penalise offenders under the UP government notification issued in December, 2015, which bans the manufacture, storage, sale or transportation of plastic carry bags in the state since January 22.
“In the initial days after the notification, there was a dip in usage of polythene bags. But lack of enforcement has caused the usage to surge. There are hardly any checks now. A majority of used plastic ends up in drains or is dumped on roadsides along with solid waste. Glaring examples are the major Sahibabad drain and the one at Sai Upvan near GT Road which are choked with plastic,” said Sushil Raghav, an environment activist.
The state government notification allowed for prosecution of offenders under the provisions of the Environment (Protection) Act, 1986. The provisions carry a monetary fine, apart from imprisonment.
“Since the notification, we have made seizure of plastic material and have also penalised offenders. Now, we will approach the district magistrate to form an enforcement committee. This is needed as the enforcement powers are assigned to a number of departments,” said Abdul Samad, municipal commissioner.
However, Samad could not provide any data to substantiate his claims of seizures and penalties made till date.
Mayor Ashu Verma said he plans “to use plastic waste to construct roads or to generate fuel”.
“ We want to spread awareness first then start levying penalty,” he said.
Ghaziabad had also failed to make the cut for the Smart City project rolled out in January. Some of the vital points lost in the race were attributed to a lack of solid waste disposal facility in a city that generates nearly 850 metric tonnes of waste every day.
The construction of a composting plant for Rs 3.75 crore, which was scheduled to start operations in December and could process 400 tonnes of waste, has also been delayed.
Samad said he has recently sanctioned Rs 12 lakh for the plant’s electricity connection. “The plant is likely to start operation by first week of June,” he said.