On October 2, other than Mizoram and Kerala, almost the whole country has technically banned plastic bags, or plastics in some form or the other. Thus, from here on, failure on the front will be a failure of enforcement and our will to make a difference.
On October 2, the states of Meghalaya and Andhra Pradesh formally announced their bans on plastic, especially plastic bags, joining the rest of the country in the fight against plastic. That leaves out just two holdout states, Mizoram and Kerala, giving each other company as the states yet to announce a formal ban. Even though, both these ecologically sensitive states have taken steps in reducing their dependence on plastics.
Earlier, The State Government of Bihar had announced that use and distribution of plastic bags in the state will be completely banned in urban Bihar from October 25th and in the rural areas from November 25th. With this Bihar becomes the 26th Indian states/UT to now have some form of ban on polythene carry bags. Earlier this year, we reported that Maharashtra had imposed a complete ban on use of polythene carry bags in the state. And the ban was working, as people took charge of their environment, besides the push from state authorities. Thus, even as it became the last of the large, resistant states to ban, nearly 25,000 tonnes of plastic waste is dumped in the country every day.
Plastic bags will be completely banned in urban areas of Bihar from October 25 and in rural areas from November 25 this year, the state government informed the Patna High Court Monday.
Lalit Kishore, Advocate General while appearing for the state government in front of a High Court bench of Chief Justice M R Shah and Justice Ashutosh Kumar hearing a PIL for banning the use of plastic or polythene bags and asking the state government to make a law for banning the use of plastic bags along with a provision for penalty for its violators. Kishore informed the bench that, “there will be complete ban on use of plastic bags in any form from October 25 in urban areas, while it will be banned in rural areas from November 25 across the state.”
The court had taken note of a news report in a Hindi daily on June 23 on the pollution in a pond located on the premises of sacred Mahabodhi temple in Gaya. Kishore made it clear that all types of plastic bags, irrespective of their thickness, would be banned in the state from the mentioned dates. Interestingly, in the vast majority of the cases, it has taken a prodding, gentle or hrsh from a high court, for states to move ahead with bans. Which also explains the extremely poor enforcement in most cases, save for a handful of standout examples like Sikkim. States that have banned partially, like West Bengal, Kerala, Odisha, Telangana etc are still grappling with enforcement in those areas, making a full, effective ban a serious challenge.
The current status of the ban, across states in the union, is as follows:
|Arunachal Pradesh||Yes||State working on implementing a temporary ban, contrary to CPCB reports.|
|Bihar||Yes||To be imposed starting October 25th|
|Delhi||Yes||Partially Effective, while most big chain vendors have dropped plastics, the bags still find themselves in distribution, nearly 2 decades after the ban was originally imposed.|
|Goa||Yes||Ahead of the curve, ban strictly being imposed.|
|Gujarat||Yes||Only effective in the capital, the ban Is facing a severe pushback from the people.|
|Himachal Pradesh||Yes||Not Effective|
|Jammu & Kashmir||Yes||Not very effective, vendors unaware of a ban.|
|Madhya Pradesh||Yes||Not Effective, state still plagued with tonnes of plastic output.|
|Manipur||Yes||Under 50 micros thickness only|
|Meghalaya||Yes||Home to cleanest village in Asia, the state has no proposed ban on use of plastic.|
|Nagaland||Yes||Chief Minister aiming for a plastic free state by December 1st.|
|Odisha||Yes||Partially imposed, state not leading a high charge for the ban.|
|Rajasthan||Yes||Better than the rest, public awareness campaigns paying off.|
|Sikkim||Yes||Very Effective, state and public effort.|
|Tamil Nadu||From 2019 onwards-|
|Telangana||Yes||Single Use plastics banned|
|Tripura||Yes||State Government working on phasing out plastic bags.|
|Uttarakhand||Yes||Slowly working towards a total ban|
|Uttar Pradesh||Yes||Not Effective|
|West Bengal||Yes||Implemented only in historical and religious sites.|
*Data accumulated from Central Pollution Control Board and IndiaSpend Study.
While Sikkim is the most successful state to have imposed a ban and effectively phased out plastic , most of the other states, have either just banned the use of plastic products or have suffered due to the lack of follow up from the state authorities in implementing the ban.
For instance, the Delhi government ordered a complete ban on the use of all plastic bags in the market areas in January 2009, and later, in October 2012, it ordered a blanket ban on all types of plastic bags, which included plastic sheets and films. But since, there has been no clear effort from the government to aid the imposition, further efforts made by the government were only effective in reducing plastic bags in shopping malls and outlets. In other words, where it was easiest to track and pass orders.
In Karnataka and Punjab, where a ban has been in effect for the last two years, it still remains ineffective in most parts of the states, as there is widespread availability of and demand for polythene bags. In Arunachal Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh, there still looms confusion about permissible grades of polythene.
This ‘failure’ to enforce bans imposed on court orders shows up in poor implementation, with both the political and executive arms failing in their duties. While Bihar, has taken a step in the right direction nearly all the work still remains to be done. The state will need a dedicated and consistent effort on part of its government to reduce and effectively eliminate plastic, including the waste already clogging its landfills and other sites.
We believe it is now incumbent on the central government too, to move to make these bans effective, by going for manufacturing facilities of plastic bags. Otherwise, most of these bans will remain poor statistical reminders of yet more failings, when it comes to taking care of our environment.