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Can Pune city do without plastic bags?

CM’s decision to make the state plastic-free has once again brought the issue of widespread use of these carry bags in focus and its ill effect on environment

pune Updated: Dec 06, 2017 14:31 IST
Abhay Khairnar
Abhay Khairnar
Hindustan Times, Pune
plastic free,pune,maharashtra
Residents continue to use plastic carry bags despite it being harmful to the environment. Lack of citizen participation was one of the main reasons why PMC’s plastic ban in 2010 failed.(Shankar Narayan/ HT Photo)

With an aim to improve the environment, chief minister Devendra Fadnavis on Saturday made an announcement to make the state of Maharashtra plastic free.

Speaking in Mumbai during a programme jointly organised by the National Green Tribunal and government’s environment department, Fadnavis said, “The government will completely ban plastic within six months. We will also work on alternatives for plastic in the state.”

While the chief minister’s announcement is being welcomed widely, doubts are being raised whether the civic body in Pune, which will have the primary responsibility of ensuring no plastic bags below 50 microns are in use, will be able to implement it in totality.

While the state government and the Pune Municipal Corporation (PMC) imposed a ban on plastic back in 2010, the ground reality is quite different otherwise with hawkers, shopkeepers and citizens still using it openly. Officials from the municipal administration accepted that plastic bags are easily available and despite taking action on shopkeepers and citizens, the civic body has not succeeded in stopping its complete use in the city.

As per the data provided by PMC, the civic body took action against almost 5,000 traders, hawkers and citizens in the last nine months of the current year and collected a fine of almost Rs.23 lakh. In total, 4,691 actions against use and sale of plastic bags were taken by PMC, while 311 actions were taken separately by the PMC’s nuisance cell.

It is the Pune Municipal Corporation’s responsibility to check the use of plastic carry bags within the municipal limit. Members of SWaCH, an NGO working in the field of garbage segregation, however, said carry bags found in the garbage have increased over the years.

According to Harshad Barde, a SWaCH representative, the amount of plastic in household waste contributes to almost 7%. “Out of the 6.9% plastic - almost 70% gets recycled (when handled by waste-pickers), while the rest goes into the dump, thus polluting the environment,” said Barde.

Experts in this field said if the government does not provide any alternative for plastic water bottles, which would be cost effective, then it would not be possible to ban plastic water bottles in the state. In reality, it is a very difficult task to ban plastic water bottles.

“It is certainly a feasible idea if alternatives are provided. The government is, currently, only speaking and what is needed is the action. In Europe, there was an instant change when the country enforced the rule of getting rid of plastic bags and people followed it,” said Sujit Patwardhan of Parisar, an NGO working for environment.

Patwardhan said that if the government enforces it and really wants to bring a change, it is possible. The state government is considering banning the use of plastic water bottles in government offices and in star hotels. The environment department’s proposal is to ban plastic completely by Gudi Padwa, during March net year.

State environment minister Ramdas Kadam said recently that the move was aimed at making the state plastic-free. “We want to eventually ban the use of plastic in the state and are working towards it.”

Kadam convened a meeting of all municipal corporations across the Mumbai Metropolitan Region recently. The government even plans to hold municipal corporations responsible for implementing the ban.

PMC’s solid waste management department head Suresh Jagtap said, “PMC is taking up various steps to execute the rule properly, but it is true that despite the efforts, plastic carry bags above 50 microns are still available in the city. PMC is conducting regular drives to control it and is even creating awareness among the citizens to stop its use.

Meanwhile, the non-degradable carry bags are creating lot of problems and even choking the drainage and storm water pipelines. Stray animals are seen eating the carry bags from the garbage along with the food. Although the PMC is taking efforts to control the use of plastic, it is also the responsibility of the citizens to refrain from using plastic carry bags as well as to alert the municipal administration if traders and shopkeepers provide it to the consumers.

Hawker Ramesh Padwal said that he is avoiding the plastic carry bags to the customers and appealing them to use cotton bags. Despite putting up a board, some customers continue to demand the carry bags.

First Published: Dec 05, 2017 21:21 IST