Sunday, July 25, 2021

A Plastic Free Hornbill Festival 2019, towards a “Zero Waste” challenge

L. H. Thangi Mannen

With the Government of Nagaland’s ban order on all single use plastics (SUPs) coming into effect since 18th September 2019, one would have expected a reduction in the availability and usage of such items in the state. However the reality is far from expectations. Hopefully and optimistically in the next couple of weeks, we hope to see the changes that we desire, particularly after the 2nd of October 2019, when all SUPs will be banned by the Government of India, all over the country.
The Hornbill Festival 2019, the premier and the only tourism promotional event of the state, is just about two months away. It is a good opportunity for the government and the people concern to take the challenge to make KISAMA, a plastic free zone and the Festival a plastic free event. For the last two years, attempts were made to raise awareness on not using the SUPs at the venue and duration of the festival. It was heartening to see; some tribal morungs and food stalls take the initiative to use innovative alternatives. The local youths were also sensitised to monitor and restrict the entry of disposable plastic materials. However these “attempts”, were not very effective enough and the Hornbill Festival waste, continued adding to the trash pile ups, as it has been doing for the last so many years. Last year, this was compounded by the fact, that despite the ban of SUPs by the government from 1st December 2018, the government itself freely distributed tons of PP bags, which were essentially plastics, as well as the abundant usage of the so called “bio-degradable bags”, by some departments.
The ineffectiveness of the first two attempts to curb SUPs, was largely due to the fact that sensitisation of volunteers and participants was done rather late, around mid- November or so. By which time most stalls, morungs, etc. had already purchased their requirements of pet bottles, disposable plates, cups, plastic bags etc. Plus the public and visitors were not sensitised and prepared enough on the issue to avoid USPs For the Hornbill Festival 2019, since a preparatory time of slightly over two months still exists, the Government should take up the challenge and appropriate action be taken on priority. Instructions and advisories to all the participating departments, tribal morungs, stalls etc., and the general public, must be disseminated well ahead of the event. The Inter-departmental Coordination Committee must take into cognizance the urgency of the matter and make effective its own (Government) decision to ban all USPs. What better time and place than the Hornbill Festival 2019, to convey the Government’s seriousness and commitment to enforce the ban on SUPs. This opportunity should not be missed. There is still time to plan, work and communicate the strategies required to make Hornbill 2019, a plastic free event. The issue is how serous are we???
Zero Waste: The Idea
“Zero Waste” may seem daunting to many. It should not, it is more of a goal or ideal rather than a hard target. Zero waste is a process for continually working towards eliminating waste. It is centered around a circular design systems as opposed to linear systems, that ends once the purpose of the product is fulfilled, which means it’s trashed. It is applicable right from the designing of a product; to how it is managed so as to reduce the volume and toxicity of waste and materials; conserve and recover all resources; and not burn or bury them. Implementing Zero Waste will eliminate all discharges to land, water, or air that may be a threat to the environment, human, animal or plant health. Zero waste at the community and individual level is about making the right choices to eradicate the use of products that have been intentionally designed to end up as waste. Clean-ups, reuse, recycling are good way to deal with the plastic waste generated but they are not enough. They are, all ways of dealing with the waste, post generation. The real solution lies in cutting the generation of waste or not producing waste, ie – Going Zero Waste! This would mean making choices in our consumption pattern that do not add to burgeoning pile of waste in our surroundings.
The Zero Waste principles are all about complete reduction of single use plastic items, such as PET bottles, Styrofoam(thermocol)/ Plastic utensils (plates/ spoons/ forks/ straws, cups, Multilayered plastics of food packaging, plastic bags, PP bags, plastic gift warps etc. This would also include Plastic decorations, Flex banners and volunteer identity cards. The reduction is followed by Segregation, for recovering resources and responsible disposal and No burning. It is also important to Communicate well in advance for everyone to understand, learn and adhere to the above steps, towards zero waste.
Suggested below are some Ideas for the Plastic Free Hornbill Festival 2019. Based on the above principles of zero waste, the following ideas can be considered for the Hornbill Festival, 2019 to go the zero waste way and be plastic free. .
1. ZERO WASTE KIT in place of mementoes or other such gift items.
i) A welcome package consisting of a cloth bag, a steel water bottle and a sturdy mug with logos of the Hornbill Festival, could be made. The visitors could be charged some amount for these items, which could also be taken back as souvenirs of the festival by them. A small note that explains the importance of bringing own bag and reusable water bottle n cup, could be placed in the bag.
ii) The kit could also be booked online on the Hornbill Festival website, and paid for in advance by visitors, to lessen the burden of handing it out to the guests on arrival and to avoid long queues at the venue.
iii) Alternatively these could also be kept at the hotels/ homestays where guests are staying and made available there.
i) No Packaged drinking water in food stalls or anywhere in the venue. Boiled and filtered water /dispensers (adequate quantity) be made available in convenient locations in sufficient number.
ii) Entire responsibility of managing drinking water could be handed over to a youth group
iii) Reusable bottles and mugs provided to visitors as welcome kit can reused for water and drinks.
iv) Local drinks to be sold in mugs/ bamboo mugs.
i) Local food cultures be promoted /allowed
ii) Promote local bakery products, minus the plastic wraps.
iii) Reusable utensils, cutlery along with reusable, flasks bottles and mugs be provided, brought and promoted
iv) No packaged junk food, such as chips, tetra pack/ plastic cold drinks bottles, or any manufactured good. They pollute.
v) Vendors should not be allowed in the venue
vi) No plastic warps for products sold, only paper or cloth bags to be used
i) No Flex Banners, can consider using Cotton cloth, wood, bamboo, stones, clay or any other bio-degradable locally available materials
ii) Promotion of local art.
iii) No plastic identity cards.
iv) No balloons or other plastic toys etc.
The Way forward, to achieve and plan out the above strategy would be that, there be an immediate Volunteer mobilisation and intensive sensitisation. Simultaneously the – Media strategy and campaign for a Zero Waste Hornbill 2019 be set in place, followed by advisories for communication to visitors/ stalls / performers etc and engagement with stalls for their cooperation and compliance. Constant reminders through print and electronic/social media to all visitors/participants to carry their own shopping bags, containers, and refillable water bottles to the festival venue, and avoid all SUPs. A “10 Days Plastic Freedom Challenge” campaign can be initiated, in all the print, social and electronic media, by the government to raise awareness and disseminate information to create the desired impact.
The Hornbill Festival is the coming together of all the elements that is made up of Nagaland. It’s a tourism promotional event that show cases Nagaland in all its diversity and ethnicity – culturally and traditionally. As such, efforts should be made to focus on this distinctiveness in terms of our local food, indigenous crafts, songs and dance and our skills in using alternatives, such as bamboo baskets, spoons, mugs, leaf plates etc. All items of manufactured goods, (particularly packaged food items) should not be encouraged in the venue, as these are the biggest pollutants. Focus should be on encouraging local and indigenous products, be it food or other items. Thus, “Zero Waste” is all about “buy local, eat local and encourage local”.
The Hornbill Festival of Nagaland, has gain prominence at both the national and international levels. And today, as we face the impact of the global climate change, let us show the world that we too are dong our bit in our fight for a better world and a better future, and stand in solidarity with the rest of humanity. It’s a challenge for all of us to add another feather to the now famous HORNBILL FESTIVAL OF NAGALAND. Let us join hands in our concern with the increasing problem of waste across our fragile landscape and advocate zero waste principles and practices, specifically targeting plastic pollution. This principle may also be extended to other events, such as the Kohima Night Bazaar, the Nagaland Honey Festival and other events and festivities that would be held in various locations in the state around the same time, as well as other times.
Let’s make Nagaland proud in our journey towards a Plastic Free and a Zero Waste destination, eventually. As the saying goes “ The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step” Lao Tzu.