Beach-holiday destination Goa set to junk plastic for good
The popular beach-holiday destination of Goa may soon be freed of all plastic pollution if the state government’s plan to ban the single-use plastic goes as per plan. Passage of a soon-to-be-tabled bill seeking to ban manufacturing, import and sale of plastic carry bags and single use items will be the first step in that direction.
Single-use plastic, commonly used for packaging before being thrown or recycled, has been banned in four states -- Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu, Himachal Pradesh and Telangana --- but its implementation in most of these states has left a lot for environmentalists to desire.
The Goa Non-biodegradable Garbage (Control) (Amendment) Bill, 2019 proposes to make burning or improperly discarding plastic a punishable offence with fines ranging from Rs 50,000 to Rs 3 lakh for manufacturers and Rs 2,500 to Rs 50,000 along with imprisonment for individuals and commercial establishments. The Bill has been cleared by the cabinet and expected to be tabled this week.
Any kind of business or domestic use of the major pollutants like plastic carry bags and other plastic or styrofoam made cups, straws, lids, cutlery, cello and polyfilm, metalized film, plastic cellophane paper others will invite sanctions once the Bill is passed.
The Bill, however, exempts export oriented units or the ones in special economic zones notified by the Central government, provided they do not allow their products for sale and usage within the state of Goa.
Further, the bill also bans persons and commercial establishments from throwing plastic carry bags and related items or burning non-biodegradable garbage in public places.
Those who continue to manufacture single-use plastic will face a fine of Rs 50,000 for first offence, Rs one-lakh for the second offence and Rs three-lakh for every subsequent offence. A 3-month jail term is also provisioned as an alternative which may be added to the penalty in case of repeat offence.
Tourists and others discarding plastic in public places will attract a fine of Rs 2,500 for first offence, Rs 3,500 for second offence and Rs 5,000 for third offence and can even be punished with jail up to five days. Erring commercial establishments will be fined Rs 10,000 for first offence, Rs 20,000 for second offence and Rs 50,000 for third offence and risk up to two months additional jail term for repeat offence.
In addition first time offenders will invite a fine of Rs 5,000 for simple burning of plastic and Rs 25,000 for bulk burning. Second offence will involve fines of Rs 10,000 and Rs 50,000 for simple burning and bulk burning respectively and imprisonment up to five days.
Environment minister Nilesh Cabral said the government will take steps for proper implementation of the proposed law to curb the harmful effects of single-use plastic. “We had consultations with all stakeholders and the response was good,” he said.
Consumer rights activist Roland Martins, however, foresees challenges.
“The ban has to be seen in the context of the consumer. It is fine to pass laws and fix deadlines. The ground reality is that implementation is going to be a challenge,” warned Martins.
He says the ban would not be effective if all stakeholders ranging from manufacturers to packagers and finally consumers are not brought on board.
“They (the government) will have to give themselves time to see how it is going to unfold itself at the ground. To roll it out, steps will have to be taken to sensitize and work out the ground realities,” Martins said.
Plastic is already banned in certain tourism spots and wildlife sanctuaries in Goa and a ban on manufacturing of plastic below 50-microns thickness is also in place but not in effect. Vendors in municipal markets in Goa are also banned from handing out plastic bags but implementation is poor.
Goa is the latest in a line of states to ban single-use plastic following the example of Tamil Nadu, Maharashtra, Telangana and Himachal Pradesh which have implemented the ban with varying degrees of success.