Revision of polythene ban: Silence of civil society groups

In a move that has taken environmentalists by surprise J&K Government has revised the ban on the use of polythene carry bags. It has allowed manufacture, sale and use of polythene carry bags above 50 microns in thickness. The revision has been done silently and apparently without any rationale. What is more, no need has been felt to take people into confidence on this vital issue of public interest.  Only rationale that one can see is  to benefit the strong lobby of polythene manufacturers and importers. 

Anyway, the lifting of ban will not change much on the ground, as the government wasn’t seriously implementing the blanket ban too.  Use of polythene bags is rampant across Kashmir, posing serious threat to the environment.  And this was despite the fact that a legislation banning the use of polythene  was in place and the implementing agencies had to just do their job.  But they  were not doing this. The  polythene bags were allowed to enter Kashmir at Lakhanpur Check Post and distributed across the state.

In 2014, expressing displeasure over the non-compliance of its directions on polythene ban, the J&K High Court had directed 14 deputy commissioners of the State to show cause as to why contempt proceedings may not be initiated against them “for defiance of the court orders.” 
Hearing a Public Interest Litigation on preservation of environment, a division bench of Chief Justice MM Kumar and Justice Hasnain Massodi had observed that the status report filed by the deputy commissioners was not in keeping with the  earlier directions passed by the court. But this hardly made any redeeming difference.  

Now the situation such is that  the polythene is everywhere. There's hardly any shop in Valley where you can't get polythene carry bags.   Though polythene pollution is a worldwide phenomenon, in Kashmir the penetration seems to be even deeper. A recent  research published in the journal Anthropocene has revealed that no part of the planet is free of the scourge of plastic waste. The supermarket bags,  compact discs, nylons and other plastics litter roads, croplands and water bodies. The impact has often been highly damaging. The study states more than 300 million tonnes of plastic is manufactured every year. But the polythene, the study argues that the humble plastic bag and plastic drink container play a far greater role in changing the planet than has been realised. 

This is why the lifting of plastic ban in J&K should be a great cause of concern and needs to be strongly resisted. Sadly, the civil society and the environmental groups in Kashmir seem to be least bothered about the move and its detrimental fallout. All, on the contrary, are interested in the politically charged issues. There is an urgent need to end this criminal negligence towards our environment.  The government shouldn’t be allowed to get away with a move with far-reaching impact on our fragile environment. 

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