Fighting polythene

By banning polythene usage, the first step to fight the menace has been taken. But lack of alternatives and absence of eco-friendly disposal mechanism is making the fight tough. Shazia Khan reports.
It is the cause many forms of pollution on earth. Polythene, being non-biodegradable, kills ecosystems in water bodies and turns soils infertile. It chokes water and sewer systems. And its versatile use in modern lifestyle only makes the menace unmanageable.  
Kashmir Valley has now joined the fight against polythene by banning its use under the Jammu and Kashmir Non Biodegradable Materials Act of 2007.
However, authorities are yet to decide on the disposal mechanism of seized polythene.
According to the 2007 act, carrying polythene bags is an offence under SRO 182 (Ban on carry polythene bags).  In pursuance of recently issued SRO 122, it delegates powers to different state authorities to punish the offenders.
While implementing the act, State Pollution Control Board, Srinagar District Administration and Srinagar Municipal Corporation (SMC) have taken various measures to curb the menace. Joint teams scan the city checking for violations.  
“Before implementing the Act, we conducted awareness programmes with the help of NGOs and local people about the devastating effects of polythene,” said Mian Javaid Ahmad, Regional Coordinator State Pollution Control Board.
Entrusted the job of implementation, SMC has recruited 30 anti-polythene workers for the mission. “Apart from anti-polythene workers, we are planning to engage more workers from sanitation department on anti-polythene drive,” said Manzoor Ahmad Tarray, Solid Waste Management Officer in SMC.
Besides, Tarray says, SMC and other departments are carrying out raids on polythene barons and shops. They have already seized around 100 quintals of polythene bags. “By taking all these measures, we have succeeded in stopping around 70 per cent of polythene use,” he said.
Under SRO 122, the State Pollution Control Board is the prescribed authority with Deputy Commissioners and Municipal authorities of different areas having the power to act against offenders.
The violators can be fined Rupees 5000 and can face a jail term of one month. Moreover, repeating the same offence will incur double punishment, states the Act.
The data available with State Pollution Control Board states that around five to six polythene carry bags are used by each house hold in Srinagar daily, which in turn accounts for around 2,500 kg of polythene consumption per day. From a conservative estimate, the city alone consumes 49 lakh polythene carry bags per month.
The disposal of such huge quantity of polythene has become a major problem for civic authorities. “Neither there are any means to dispose the bulk of waste polythene every day, nor we are provided with latest eco friendly insulators which can decompose the abundant quantity of used polythene,” said Tarray.
Polythene wastes have adverse effects on health and environment. “The methane contents present in polythene carry bags act as toxic chemical. They have not only generated blood and stomach ailments, they also have adverse effects on entire nervous system,” says Dr Altaf Wani.
Agriculture Scientists also blame polythene for reduction in rice and vegetable production. “Polythene contents which has gone deep into the soil have toxic effects and cause havoc in plantation,” says an agriculturist Riyaz Ahmad Najar.
Polythene ban can reduce such pollution in valley. Anti-polythene squads are not only seizing polythene bags from commercial establishments, they also seize them from individuals. Pedestrians are asked to hand over polythene bags.
But experts say the ban alone on a particular kind of material is not enough to tackle the menace.
The act specifies ban on the use of vest type, D Punch and grip joined polythene carry bags. The use of polythene sheets or other polythene products is not an offence under the act.
“Everyday 1500-3000 trucks enter the valley and each lorry has some 150-300 kg of polythene to cover commodities, which also ends in the streams and streets,” a member of Kashmir Traders and Manufacturers Federation told Kashmir Life.
“The valley is able to produce only 0.5 per cent eco friendly carry bags, and majority of bags to be imported are made of polyester which is also injurious to health and environment,” the member said.
Officials from SMC told Kashmir Life that to tackle the menace effectively, J&K needs to set up polythene recycling plants and insulation plants which are eco friendly for decomposing used polythene.
Besides, alternatives like paper bags or biodegradable and recyclable polythene bags have to be adequately introduced. Unless people get alternative carry bags, the ban is unlikely to succeed. 


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