Two Gurugram villages show the way in leading a polythene-free life
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Two Gurugram villages show the way in leading a polythene-free life

The gram panchayat of Gurugram’s Kasanvillage banned the use of polythene bags in December last year, and according to the villagers, the ban has worked well on the ground

gurgaon Updated: Feb 04, 2019 15:04 IST
Sonali Verma
Sonali Verma
Hindustan Times, Gurugram
polythene free villages in gurugram,plastic pollution,kasan village gurugram
Although residents of Kasan and Naharpur villages of Gurugram use jute and cotton bags to shop, they still have no idea how to check the plastic that comes from the cities.(Parveen Kumar / HT Photo )

In the main market of Kasan, a village panchayat about 18 kilometres from Gurugram, people can be seen carrying cloth bags for their everyday shopping while vendors hand out goods in bags made of fabric.

Kasan’s gram panchayat banned the use of polythene bags in December last year, and according to the villagers, the ban has worked well on the ground. “All of the 700 or so shops in the village have replaced polythene bags with fabric or paper bags. Even the villagers bring their own cloth or jute bags with them when they come to shop,” said Jagjivan Singh, a local grocery store owner.

Hardly 15 minutes away from Kasan is Naharpur village where the use of polythene bags has been banned in nearly 1,000 shops since October 1, 2016, according to the village sarpanch Vijay Pal. Here, the walls of schools and houses are painted with the slogan of ‘Say No to Plastic’. Both Naharpur and Kasan have imposed a fine of ₹5,100 on anyone found using a polythene bag. However, according to the heads of the villages, no one has been fined yet. “No one has given us the chance to fine them,” said Pal, adding that teams of volunteers go around the village to ensure the ban is being followed. “We have a committee of 21 gram panchayat members who are also involved in implementing the ban,” he added.

The Municipal Corporation of Gurugram (MCG) too banned the use of plastic less than 50 microns in 2015 but its implementation is questionable. Despite the ban, thin plastic bags that cannot be disposed of or recycled continue to choke waste management systems across the city. However, what Gurugram has been aspiring to do for years, the two villages have achieved in a shorter time.

Members of the panchayat of both the villages said that the main surface water channels had turned into dumping zones for plastic waste which is why the ban had to be enforced. “People would dispose their household waste in polythene bags and dump them in water channels that would lead to a clogged drainage system and more waterlogging woes,” said Satdev Sharma, sarpanch of Kasan, adding that it would be a Herculean task to remove all the plastic waste. Thus began a large-scale awareness drive against the use of plastic bags with door-to-door campaigning by volunteers, rallies by school children and weekly meetings of villagers to discuss the implementation of the plan. “We are a village with a population of about 1 lakh, most of whom are outsiders and live on rent. I have asked my tenants too to give up polythene bags,” said Kishore, a local of Kasan.

A shopkeeper shows a cloth bag at Kasan village, in Gurugram. All shops in Kasan have turned polythene free, and use only non-woven fabric bags after the panchayat made it compulsory to do so. (Parveen Kumar / HT Photo )

State PWD and forest minister Rao Narbir Singh, in a press conference on January 21, appreciated the two villages for going plastic-free. “The locals don’t allow the use of polythene in the villages which is why they deserve appreciation,” he told HT.

However, the ban on polythene bags is only the first step in waste management in the villages. Locals haven’t yet figured out how to manage the polythene that they receive from cities, and often have to bear the brunt for it. “We purchase fruits and vegetables from markets in Delhi and Gurugram that come in polythene bags. We end up either burning or burying them in the ground,” said a local vegetable vendor. Local panchayat members agreed more awareness is needed among people to manage waste as the good that comes out of the ban gets undone when plastic is burnt or buried.

Panchayat members added that during the awareness drive for implementing the ban, they were met with certain skepticism from locals. “When we went door-to-door to talk to people, most of whom asked whether the ban is being enforced in cities or not. ‘Why should we do it then’, they had questioned,” said Sharma, adding that once the village elders explained to them about the problems that accompany plastic use, they agreed to go with them.

Another challenge was procuring fabric, cloth and jute bags. “We have a supplier who gets fabric bags in bulk every day. Shopkeepers buy a pack of 20-30 bags for ₹1 or ₹2. My wife knows how to stitch; so she made around 50 cotton bags, which we distributed among our neighbours,” said Kamal Chouhan, a local, adding that it isn’t difficult to implement the ban since the cloth and fabric bags have now become easily available.

While the two villages on Gurugram’s periphery have adopted polythene-free shopping, closer home in the city, the existing ban on the use of non-biodegradable plastic bags of less than 50 microns that was announced by the Municipal Corporation of Gurugram in 2015 is far from being implemented. Markets in the city are still overflowing and choking with plastic bags, as was found in spot visits and previous reports by Hindustan Times. “Polythene bags less than 50 microns are still being used in full force. Go to any shop in any market in the city and you’ll see it,” said Vineet Banga, a resident of Sector 26.

Vaishali Rana Chandra, a city-based environmentalist, said that despite the ban in the city and a fine of ₹5,000 in place, no one has been penalised from 2015 till date, as was also revealed in an RTI application by a city-based activist last year. “The implementation of the ban is very poor. The MCG hasn’t formed any teams to check its implementation and impose fines in so many years despite its tall claims of striving to be plastic-free. It has turned a blind eye to violators. The city needs a proper implementation plan,” Chandra said.

She added that similar to committees that were formed in Naharpur and Kasan to check the use of polythene bags, the MCG too should deploy people in markets. “The two villages are small so the implementation of the ban could be checked easily. Gurugram too should be divided into zones and MCG workers should be given responsibility of the markets in those zones. This would lead to fines, which would be an effective deterrent,” Chandra said.

Sonia Dohan, city leader of the Swachh Bharat project implementation, said that teams have been deployed to fine shopkeepers who use bags above 50 microns. “Our aim is to first control the use of bags lesser than 50 microns as they are rampant. We are also looking at curbing the supply of such bags by cracking down on manufacturers of polythene,” she said.

First Published: Feb 04, 2019 15:04 IST