Polythene Ban

THE Jammu and Kashmir government recently banned single-use plastic in the Union Territory. On June 30, the J&K Pollution Control Committee (JKPCC) issued a public notice prohibiting the production, stocking, distribution, sale and use of plastic. The government’s move came following the blanket ban imposed by the centre on single-use plastic items from July 1 this year. The administration has given all the indications that it is serious about implementing the ban. And what better occasion to announce the ban and seek to enforce it than around the International Plastic Bag Free Day on July 3. But the government’s resolve will be tested by what happens on the ground.

Our past experience with government bans on the use of plastic has been bitter. Successive governments haven’t ever implemented them seriously.  The truth is that the use of polythene bags is rampant across Kashmir, posing a serious threat to the environment.  And this was despite the fact that legislation banning the use of polythene has been 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 region.

In 2014, expressing displeasure over the non-compliance of its directions on polythene ban, the J&K High Court directed 14 deputy commissioners of the then state to show cause as to why contempt proceedings should not be initiated against them “for defiance of the court orders.”

Hearing a Public Interest Litigation on preservation of environment, a division bench of the then 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 is such is that polythene is everywhere. There’s hardly any shop in the 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. Research published in the journal Anthropocene in 2016 has revealed that no part of the planet is free of the scourge of plastic waste. 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 study argues, that the humble plastic bag and plastic drink container play a far greater role in changing the planet than has been realized.

So, there is an urgent need to end this criminal negligence towards our environment.  More so in Kashmir, the paradise on earth, whose natural beauty draws lakhs of tourists every year. Let us hope that this time around the government is serious about enforcing the ban and saving our fragile environment from its far-reaching impact.

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