An online survey conducted by some social organisations on plastic ban and its effectiveness in the Indian Himalayan region has suggested that a maximum number of people were aware of the ban, but the embargo outcome was not very encouraging.
The survey was conducted by NGOs like Zero Waste Himalaya (ZWH) and Integrated Mountain Initiative (IMI), with 315 responses from hill areas in places like Tripura, Nagaland, Mizoram, Himachal Pradesh, Sikkim, Assam, Uttarakhand, West Bengal, Meghalaya, Arunachal Pradesh, Manipur and UTs of Ladakh and J&K.
“On Plastic Bag Free day today, we are trying to reflect on the actions being taken by mountain states in response to the plastic crisis for which the online survey on plastic bag ban and its effectiveness was undertaken in the last two weeks,” said Roshan Rai of the ZWH on Saturday.
“The findings reveal that a very high 82 per cent of respondents were aware of a plastic bag ban in their region with awareness higher in Himachal Pradesh, Nagaland, Sikkim, Tripura and Mizoram. Yet, the responses highlighting the short-lived or partial effectiveness of the ban across all regions is not encouraging. While only 19% mentioned high effectiveness of the bans, 35 per cent felt bans were not effective and 31 per cent said they were effective only for some time,” he said, adding that plastic bags were still in use in all types of markets as found by the survey.
Another member of the ZWH, Priyadarshinee Shrestha, said, “The fallout of the rampant use of plastics is highly evident in our mountains, with choked drains and waterways leading to innumerable life taking landslides, agricultural fields getting clogged and wildlife getting seriously impacted. Plastic litter is also widespread in the mountains and is impossible to retrieve.”
“Many state governments and local authorities have notified complete bans on plastic carry bags but almost all have failed in implementation. What does this inability to stop plastic bag use then say about the mountain states’ will and ability to tackle the plastic crisis?” she questioned. The ZWH maintained that the survey further revealed that thin plastic bags less than 50 microns are still pervasive with 52 per cent respondents indicating this.
According to the Plastic Waste Management Rules 2016, a minimum thickness for plastic bags with only 50 microns or more are being allowed. “Increased use of nonwoven polypropylene (PP) bags, the new avatar of plastic bags which look like cloth has also been reported in the survey. Sikkim and Tripura had a higher number indicating use of the PP bags,” said Rajendra P Gurung, a ZWH member.
“Sikkim’s plastic bag ban is perhaps the oldest, coming into effect way back in 1998 with strict enforcement for some years. The ban came about in response to choked drains that resulted in landslides and deaths. However, polypropylene bags flooding the market in recent years has made the ban ineffective, and the Sikkim Government is considering inclusion of the non-woven PP bag under the plastic bag ban,” he said.
“A powerful message can be conveyed through the simple act of carrying your own reusable bag which rejects the use and throw mindset and embraces a sustainable lifestyle choice. Plastic bag free day is an opportune moment to talk about reuse, and reflect on our lifestyles to take steps towards a plastic pollution free planet. It is an action that changes the narrative in redress of the waste crisis by not producing waste in the first place,” said Mr. Rai.