‘No’ to plastic bags restores Himachal’s pristine beauty

January 19th, 2009 - 11:36 am ICT by IANS  

Shimla, Jan 19 (IANS) The hills are looking clean again. Once an eyesore, littering the verdant mountain slopes, choking drains and scarring the environment, plastic pollution has come down dramatically in Shimla and other parts of Himachal Pradesh, four years after this north Indian state banned the use of small polythene bags.”Before the implementation of the ban, polythene pollution was a major problem in the state,” R.K. Sood, joint member- secretary of the Himachal State Council for Science, Technology and Environment, told IANS.

Describing the scene before the ban was imposed, he said: “Plastic bags littered the hillsides. During the monsoon, the rain water brought along heaps of polythene bags and other non-biodegradable material that choked most of the municipal drains. Now, the problem has been solved to a great extent.”

Himachal Pradesh was the first state in India to ban the production, storage, use, sale and distribution of small polythene bags in June 2004.

Under the Himachal Pradesh Non-Biodegradable Garbage (Control) Act of 1995, any violator trespassing faced a fine up to Rs.25,000. The minimum fine was fixed at Rs.500.

“The ban on use of coloured polythene bags manufactured from recycled plastic was initially imposed on Jan 1, 1999. Later in 2004, the ban was imposed under Section 7(h) of the State Non-Biodegradable Garbage (Control) Rules on the use of polythene bags having thickness less than 70 microns and size less than 18″x12″,” Sood said.

As a result, paper and jute bags are now back in the state.

Sanjay Verma, project officer with the state Department of Environment Science and Technology, said: “Initially, it was a herculean task to enforce the ban. Special sensitisation drives were launched across the state to educate the common man about the ecological hazards and about which type of bags were exempted from the ban and which were not.”

About 20 government officials were empowered at the district and sub-divisional level to ensure effective implementation of the ban.

“Still, 25 to 30 people are fined on an average every month in the state,” Verma said.

He said the problem is still acute in areas located along neighbouring Punjab and Haryana.

“The use of polythene continues in the border areas of the state. The problem can be checked when the neighbouring states enforce the ban too. Moreover, tourists generate more plastic during the peak season than the locals during the entire year,” he said.

To dispose of Shimla’s polythene waste, private firm Gujarat Ambuja Cements Ltd(GACL) joined hands with the city’s municipal corporation in July last year as part of corporate social responsibility.

“As part of the understanding, we (GACL) are regularly getting truckloads of polythene waste that is scientifically burnt at our Darlaghat unit in Solan district,” GACL official Sandeep Kapoor said.

Around 1.5 to 2 quintals of polythene waste is collected daily in Shimla alone.

State Forest Minister J.P. Nadda said the state would soon have its environmental master plan to tackle critical areas of environmental degradation.

“The master plan will include a baseline study of the environmental vulnerabilities and details of measures to tackle problems mainly related to urban solid waste, industrial pollution and ecological degradation caused by hydropower projects,” he said.

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