“Bhaiya ek polythene dena”… not many of us will deny using these four words on a daily basis since poly bags seem to have become a part and parcel of our lives. Here’s a not-so-known fact that in 2003 Himachal Pradesh became the first Indian state to be declared plastic-free. Following in the footsteps, Madhya Pradesh (MP) is all set to impose a ban on plastic/poly bags with effect from May 1, 2017. While the step taken by the MP government is praiseworthy, the ground reality in other states presents a completely different picture.
Time and again such bans have been enforced in various Indian states. However it is a pity that despite blanket bans, we fail to abide by the government orders. Bihar is one such state where the government imposed a ban on the use of plastic bottles a year ago, but to no avail. Our use of poly bags keeps multiplying the piles of plastic debris across the state.
Since we are the ones responsible for poisoning the planet, we cannot expect to get off scot-free. We have to bear the brunt of our negligence in the form of white pollution (pollution caused by plastic and its products). India, not too surprisingly, is among the top four contributors of white pollution in the world. The reckless disposal of plastic waste results in degradation of the environment since plastic takes thousands of years to decompose, thereby, causing a serious threat to human, animal and marine lives. Laws come and go, but we never seem to pay the much-needed attention to them. In order to immediately address this grave issue of white pollution, what we really need to do is generate political and public will to save the environment. The government along with the citizens needs to play a significant part in creating a plastic-free Bihar. Important measures include:
- Checking the use of poly bags in the city
- Imposing heavy fines on shopkeepers, grocery shop and milk booth owners, vegetable-fruit sellers and street vendors if they are found selling goods in polythenes
- Refraining from buying packaged drinks, juices and other liquids
- Avoiding use of plastic/melamine utensils at home or outside
- Promoting use of cloth, handmade bags and jute bags
- Replacing plastic water bottles with steel and glass bottles
- Promoting recycle of plastic at both community and individual levels
- Running awareness campaigns to educate people about the harmful effects of plastic
- Creating plastic-free zones in the city
- Improving the overall plastic waste management system
Taking inspiration from Bobbili, a small town situated in Vizianagaram where it is illegal to sell or buy plastic, Bihar can also become a polythene-free state. Had the government not strived to achieve something that seemed an impossible goal to achieve in the beginning, the liquor ban could never have been imposed so effectively in the state. We must learn from it and work towards getting rid of pollutants that will affect not just us, but our future generations too.
Pragya Shanker is a Media Officer with CEED India.