Plastic ban

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In what could be an indication of the state of affairs, enforcing laws or orders of Government or district authorities in Nagaland is simply non-existent. Except for the ceremonial drive to enforce the so-called laws once or twice a year according to the mood of the enforcing agencies, law breakers have a field day all through the year. From uniform for auto rickshaw drivers to tinted glasses and designation plates in vehicles, most vehicle users are flouting the rule book. And here we are not even talking about the prohibition law. In fact, except auto drivers, who are penalized in every nook and corners of the town by home guards personnel on traffic duty, vehicles with tinted glasses or the other banned items adorning the vehicles are not even stopped and penalized. It is unfortunate that we are living in a State where people usually don’t obey Government orders and the Government do nothing to implement its orders. The State Government had banned all single use plastic less than 50 microns, specially plastic bags and plastic cutleries including Styrofoar and thermocol disposable plates with effect from December 1 last year. A notification issued by the State Urban Development Department said the restriction on the use of plastics in the State is to eradicate the menace of plastic and serious environmental and ecological challenges posed by rampant use of plastics. The notification stated that Government office would stop using packaged drinking water bottles, below 20 litres capacity, by April 1, 2019. Alternatives like filtered water dispensers and RO plants will be introduced; Government servants would be encouraged to carry reusable drinking water bottles, etc, the notification said. To deter the use of plastics, the Government assured that alternative to plastic bags will be promoted and popularized, which would include cloth, jute, paper bags, bamboo and leaf plates and cutlery. Incentives will be provided to entrepreneurs investing in production of paper bags and cloth bag making units, disposable bio-degradable cutlery from areca nut leaves, setting up of water ATMs in public places, plastic shredding units for recycling of plastics, it said. “Necessary steps will be taken for banning plastic straws by 1st January 2020. This would require ensuring manufacturers of juices and coffee start adopting alternatives to single use plastic straws,” the notification stated. But we must not lost sight of the fact that this is not the first ban imposed by the State Government on use of plastic in Nagaland. In fact imposing bans on plastic by the State Government has become a ritual every 2-3 years to no avail. We are all aware that polythene bags causes environmental degradation and is the source of air and water pollution. But despite the regular bans, shopkeepers and vendors continues to use polythene bags as carry home bags for their customers. Following the Government order banning the use of polythene bags, many municipal and town councils as well as district administrations in the State had issued orders banning use of the same under their jurisdiction, with warning of actions against the defaulters. But repeatedly banning the same thing over and over indicates that there is some serious slackness in the execution of orders. Apparently the agency that is responsible for proper execution is not functioning properly. It is criminal negligence that the enforcing agencies, including environmental authorities, have failed to enforce the orders of the Government in letter and in spirit. Sure, today we are seeing a lot of community sensitization on the harmful effects of plastic use and training on paper bag making being conducted across the length and breadth of the State. We are also observing that some shopkeepers are now using cloth bags, while most traders continue to use the cheaper plastic bags. And without proper enforcement of the ban, those traders using cloth bags are likely to resume using plastic bags, as was the case in the earlier bans on plastics. While there is a need for the Government and its agencies to pull their socks up and ensure strict implementation of the ban, it is also vital that people, especially shopkeepers and vendors, change their behaviour and begin to respect the orders of the Government. Why should it become necessary for the Government to take punitive measures against the defaulters when the order of banning polyether bags is useful to them and their children? Our citizenry has to rise to the occasion and become responsive to the orders of the Government.