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Sunday, Nov 17, 2019

Year after ban, Mumbai’s civic body fails to reduce use of plastic

Use of plastic is widespread, the civic body has still not started fining errant customers, BMC squads in charge of raiding shops have virtually disappeared from the streets.

mumbai Updated: Jun 21, 2019 00:58 IST
Sagar Pillai
Sagar Pillai
Hindustan Times
Mumbaiites continue to use banned plastic.
Mumbaiites continue to use banned plastic.(HT Photo)

A year after the Maharashtra government introduced a statewide plastic ban, its implementation by the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) in the city seems to have lost momentum: Markets are once again flooded with single-use plastic, the civic body has still not started fining errant customers, and BMC’s ‘blue squads’ – in charge of raiding shops – have virtually disappeared from the streets.

Experts say the failure of the plastic can be attributed to poor coordination among civic officials and lack of effective mechanisms to enforce the ban. According to BMC, it has so far seized around 60,000kg plastic worth ₹3.39 crore. Of this, 28,000kg was seized in the first four months, while 32,000kg was seized in the following eight months.

The civic body has said the loss in momentum of collection is because use of plastic has reduced. “Usage of single-use plastic has been drastically reduced in the markers. This happened after we started taking strict action against offenders. Also, action on ground reduced because most of our staff was busy with the elections.”

Anand Wagralkar, deputy municipal commissioner, said, “We have given instructions to our staff to expedite visits to shops, markets and other establishments to gain momentum. The action at the ward levels will be solidified from now on.”

Meanwhile, citizens are still confused about what types of plastic are banned. Viren Shah, Federation of Retail Traders Welfare Association, said, “Most shop owners are clueless on which plastic to sell. It is difficult to tell the difference between a non-woven plastic [which is banned] and permitted plastic. Authorities have made no efforts to spread awareness, so small businesses are facing losses.”

Implementation of ban was haphazard, say citizens

From bringing attention to its “haphazard” planning to questioning the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC)’s intent, activists and environmentalists across the city have slammed the civic body for its poor implementation of the plastic ban.

The state government had introduced the ban last year and BMC was to be the implementing body in the city. However, citizens believe that the whole process did not go smoothly. James John, who lives in the western suburbs, says, “The ban was impulsive; its implementation was unorganized and haphazard. The civic body never took out the time to educate users and manufacturers about its ill effects.”

Others have pointed out that even a year later, use of plastic in markets is widespread. “Plastic continues to be used rampantly. This is owing to lack of coordination with BMC,” said Rajkumar Sharma, a Chembur resident.

Moreover, the civic body is yet to start imposing fines on customers for the offence. Currently, it only fines shopkeepers, establishments and hawkers. “BMC’s intention behind banning plastic was to pass on the work. The ban has ended up harassing poor people,” said environmentalist Zoru Bhathena.

Meanwhile, environmentalist D Stalin has highlighted the BMC’s “failed waste disposal methods.” “There is no point in going after manufacturers because even after seizing the plastic, BMC is clueless about how to dispose it of,” said Stalin.

Activists are now suggesting their own methods to counter BMC’s alleged failure. Bhathena recommends reducing dependency on plastic through taxes and provision of cost-effective alternatives. John recommends “ground zero action, wherein the BMC can connect with local organisations to educate people and ensure community participation.”