Your Space: Ban or no ban? plastic bags still available in Pune markets
The PMC has admitted its failure to implement the plastic ban in the city after it was enforced last year. HT highlighted that plastic bags were smuggled into the city from neighbouring states. Readers tell us what the civic administration should do to implement the ban effectively...Updated: Jun 30, 2019 14:44 IST
Despite a state-wide plastic ban, plastic pollution in the city has been on a consistent rise. Obviously, the ban is not working. The primary reasons for that are — first, there are powerful industry forces that are ever-ready to lobby against such a measure, creating hindrance both at the administrative and executive levels. Secondly, wherever these bans have been implemented, the administration has been found lacking in providing viable alternatives. PMC and the state government have failed to create any viable alternative to it. Thirdly, the political interference in the implementation of the plastic ban is visible on a wider scale. Even Hindustan Times had published a report stating that Congress leader Arvind Shinde had stopped the PMC squad from taking action against the offenders of plastic ban. The lawmakers who have enforced the ban, the same are the ones who are opposing it. The ban cannot be successful in the future also with such unnecessary interferences.
Just banning plastic bags, straws and thermocol will not solve our plastic problem. The civic body needs to come up with a foolproof plan and have various resources in place to implement the ban
Ban diluted due to corporate lobbying
The plastic ban was meant to be a bright new ecological beginning for the denizens of the state. It was supposed to be a panacea for all our eco-ills. Sadly, things did not really play out that way. The moment the ban was announced, cash-rich industrial forces were lobbying to get the government to change its stance. Stories started to appear in newspaper on the loss of jobs, and the economic impact of the ban. Talking in two tones, the industry bodies promised a new approach by launching a slew of recycling initiatives and then highlighting how ecologically harmful the ban would be, as it would lead to more usage of paper and wastage of food. A year later, one can clearly state that the comprehensive ban that it was meant to be, has not really materialised. It has been repeatedly diluted in the wake of corporate lobbying and public backlash. With such a weakening resolve, the result is that the ban in Maharashtra has failed as predicted by many activists and scholars when the ban was implemented.
Focus on addressing issue, not fines
Currently civic bodies are focusing only on fining people to generate revenue and not focusing on solving the issue. Instead, the civic administration must focus on spreading awareness regarding the effects of plastic bags on our environment. Civic administration must organise awareness campaigns in various IT parks, industrial areas, schools, colleges and other public places with support from various NGOs. This will influence society as a whole to inculcate the habit of saying no to plastic bags. Administration must also focus on educating people about different alternatives of plastic bags and incentivise such options to make them usable in regular business.
Despite ban, plastic is a big threat
In March 2018, the government of Maharashtra announced a blanket ban on plastics bags, bottles and thermocol (polystyrene) products. The initiative was welcomed by all. A year later, it is clear that all the efforts taken by the PMC regarding the plastic ban have failed. The ban initiative is good. However, what is the point of enforcing such a ban if the implementation is not good? After a year, all that we know is that there is a very marginal difference in plastic waste generation. Even after the ban the plastic continues to pose as one the biggest threats to us.
Focus on filtering garbage
A 2016 report by the central pollution control board indicated that most Indian states have not yet implemented the plastic waste management rules of 2011, which mandate proper systems to ensure the segregation and disposal of plastic waste as well as crackdowns on unregistered plastic manufacturing units. Given such circumstances, it is clear that even the implementation of basic rules is not done properly. For the ban to be successful, besides taking serious actions against the offenders, the government must focus at every step of garbage filtration. If the Pune Municipal Corporation (PMC) records are to be believed, the number of actions taken against the offenders is decreasing every day. All of this results into the failure of the plastic ban.
Plastic bags are available due to residents’ demand
The civic body must not exclude the common residents from the ban. One has to understand that these plastic bags are available in the market due to the demand of residents. When the ban was implemented, the civic authorities only fined small-time vendors and not big restaurants or manufacturers. However, residents were not fined. Plastic bags are now smuggled from other states. The ban will not be successful if all of us are not disciplined.
Poor implementation is main reason for ban failure
Maharashtra state cabinet’s decision to ban plastic bags of all microns and items made of plastic and thermocol had been most welcome, albeit much delayed. No doubt this should have come in 30 years ago. However, one keeps wondering why the government did not include material used for flexes, banners skysigns in the ban. When and if removed, they fly in the air and slowly settle on ground to become part of landfill.
State government notification dated March 23, 2018, was issued three months before implementation. During the three months, PMC did not prepare guidelines for its team to follow. Not having a standardised operating procedure is the real reason why everything in India fails. By giving such a wide gap between the cabinet decision and the issuance of the notification, the government had given the opportunity (on a platter) for powerful lobby groups to line up outside the CM’s door to give reasons to prevent the ban and/or file petitions in court. And the government’s wavering attitude was most obvious, as if they were imposing the ban against their will.
Has anyone considered the harmful effects of plastics floating in the air, water and land which will certainly smother the future of environment for our children? Plastic material is not easy to recycle, so this is just dumped to float around in the environment to finally break into small pieces which then float into water bodies to be consumed by marine life, into forests to be consumed by animals, wildlife. One way or another we humans get affected.
Conduct awareness programmes
Plastic ban needs dedication, will power of politicos and administration with residents taking this as a responsibility. Only then will the plastic ban be successful. Despite the ban, plastic items are still being sold in markets. The plastic bags are sold openly on traffic signals. No action has been taken against them and this shows the lethargy of civic administration. PMC must take help of residents association, NGOs and students to spread awareness. Every resident must carry their own cloth bags. PMC should promote self-help groups to make cheaper cloth bags which will be available for vendors. Just declaring a plastic ban is not enough, it should be supported by everybody in society.