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Election 2019 has been the most environment- friendly with least plastic use

In previous elections, single- time use polythene printed material -- festoons, flags, buntings etc - were the main components in litter and practically all political parties and candidates put up such material between and around electric poles, trees and roads leading to rally venues. 

lok sabha elections Updated: May 18, 2019 17:45 IST
Pankaj Jaiswal
Pankaj Jaiswal
Hindustan Times, Lucknow
environment friendly election,plastic free election
And as the polls are coming to an end, election observers did not notice any single-use polythene campaign material.(HT Photo)

Election 2019 has been remarkable in reducing the environmental hazard caused by campaigning as previous polls had been a nuisance by way of indiscriminate use of polythene as well as litter after the polls.

The National Green Tribunal (NGT) directive and Election Commission guidelines for political parties seem to have paid off.

The NGT, on March 4, directed the EC to decide on banning non-degradable materials, particularly single-use plastics in election campaigns.

In previous elections, single-time use polythene printed material -- festoons, flags, buntings etc - were the main components in litter and practically all political parties and candidates put up such material between and around electric poles, trees and roads leading to rally venues.

On March 10, at its press conference for the announcements of the poll schedule, the EC directed political parties, candidates and their representatives to use “eco-friendly substances for preparing election campaign/publicity material — considering the long-term deleterious impact of materials such as plastics, polythene, etc on the life-sustaining environment”.

And as the polls are coming to an end, election observers did not notice any single-use polythene campaign material.

Sanjay Srivastava, a poll campaign material producer and seller in Lucknow, said: "We completely stopped manufacturing and selling them (plastics and polythene materials). So, the use came to an abrupt halt."

Sunita Narain, director general of the Centre for Science and Environment, a research and advocacy organization, said: "Now as the polls are drawing to a close, the EC should come out with an assessment report on the impact of its direction. We will also attempt an assessment."

Ravindra Agarwal, another poll material manufacturer and seller in Lucknow, traces the story behind the absence of environmentally hazardous polythene in the 2019 polls. He says: "The 2019 polls are the first polls without polythene campaign material. But it did not happen overnight. We gradually, and under pressure, stopped manufacturing polythene campaign material when the government banned single-use polythene and plastic in the middle of last year following the Apex court's directives."

Only cloth and paper stocks ( Pankaj Jaiswal/HT Phoro )

Rakesh Agarwal, another man in the business of poll material, said: "When poll announcement came, we put a complete stop on use of single-use polythene. This time we did not print any polythene buntings, flags and replaced the plastic (one time) flags with thin cotton fabric ones. Polythene use is also related to the court, EC and municipality and police so we did not want trouble from any one of them or the environmentalists. Just look around the shop and you would see all poll material is made up of cloth or paper -- all biodegradable materials. There is no polythene."

Sanjay Srivastava further said: "We don't even give cloth campaign material in plastic carry bags to customers. Only cloth bags."

Ravindra Agarwal unfurled a number of buntings to show that it was all of paper and said that there was 25% price difference between cloth/paper material compared to polythene. If a paper flag costs Rs 2 a piece, a polythene one costs Rs 1.50."

Professor SK Dwivedi, a political analyst and retired head of department of political science, Lucknow University, said: "Both sound and polythene pollution by political parties in this election are visibly reduced. Political parties should not be causing any pollution at all as they are the agenda setters."

Chief Election Officers (CEO), Uttar Pradesh, L Venketeshwar Lu said: "We did not receive any complaints from anyone about any environmentally hazardous material used this time. The EC had issued the directives and we had forwarded advisories to political parties in UP. We did not see the use of any one-time polythene in campaign material this time. The effect may also be because of the strictness of courts, NGT, and subsequent rise in collective consciousness. Now, even during festivals use of pollution materials and idols have come down."

Political parties both in elections or even otherwise had been known for using environmentally hazardous materials.

Samajwadi Party spokesperson Abdul Hafiz Gandhi said: "True, that all political parties used polluting material and now none are using it. It is a simple case of supply and demand rather than the other way round. Campaigners, I guess, never demanded plastic material. They only bought what was available -- only polythene was available then. Now, they are buying what is available. It's only cloth and paper material now.”

He added: “On this count, our party had been a little different. Our presidentis an environmental engineer and had been asking the party to shun plastic. Whatever has happened this time is a welcome change."

First Published: May 18, 2019 11:08 IST

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