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Failure to effect single use plastic ban: Officials blame it on 'careless' Gujarat public

By Rajiv Shah*  

Does the Gujarat government believe that what is called single use plastic – declared “banned” on July 1, 2022 eight years after Prime Minister Narendra Modi “exhorted” to do it on coming to power in 2014 – continues to be indiscriminately used thanks to “irresponsible consumers"? It would seem so, if the proceedings of a seminar organised by an environmental NGO, in which middle-level state officials and industry representatives, participated.
The Paryavaran Mitra-sponsored meet, held at the Ahmedabad Management Association (AMA), saw officials from the Gujarat Pollution Control Board (GPCB), Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation (AMC) and the Swacch Bharat Abhiyan (Gujarat), admit, indeed without mincing words, that the plastic ban remains ineffective because of “lack of awareness” about it among the general public, even as refusing to take any responsibility for implementing the law.
Blame-the-people salvo was fired by Pratik Patwari, Gujarat Chamber of Commerce and Industry (GCCI) president, who said, the government “cannot be held responsible” for failing to effect the ban, pointing out, the single use 50 micron plastic is being produced in large quantity in Halol area of Central Gujarat, and “though we are trying to help the small producers to shift to 100 micron, it’s not so easy.” He insisted, “It's the people... What didn’t happen for 70 years cannot be done in five years. At least ten years should be given for implementing the ban.”
GPCB officials CA Shah and Shivani Bhargav, AMC official Monika Patel and Swacch Bharat Abhiyan (Gujarat) official Madhavi Patel, even as seeking to censure the general public for continuing to use the single use plastic, appeared to agree that there was an all round failure to implement the ban. If Shah said, 60% of all plastic bags were produced in Gujarat, even as criticising people’s behaviour for “not economizing” (sic!), Bhargav underlined, “We are very slow in shifting to biodegradable bags as compared to most other states.”
What didn’t happen for 70 years cannot be done in five years. At least ten years should be given for implementing the ban
Monika Patel said, despite the ban, the AMC was “collecting” 350 to 400 tonnes of plastic daily in Ahmedabad, but this collection is quite small, adding, about 4,000 tonnes of “legacy plastic” was lying idle in the sold waste dump site, and no industry is ready to pick it up for  recycling, because of “poor treatment facility” across Gujarat. Madhavi Patel, even as insisting that it was Modi who “brought in awareness” about segregating waste between solid, liquid and plastics, agreed, no segregation was taking place in Ahmedabad or other major cities.
Amar Deep Singh, representing NGO CUTS International, the second sponsor of the meet, was all praise for the Gujarat government for creating great innovative facilities for clean environment, pointing to how Ahmedabad ranks among the ecologically best perforning cities of India, citing the Sabarmati Riverfront with gardens and recycling tracks as a sustainable tourism example. When asked if he knew that beyond 11 kilometres, off Vasna barrage, the river turns into a gutter in which industry discharged all its liquid waste, he admitted to Counterview, he hadn't looked into it.
Sharply reacting to the "debate", Hemant Shah, former associate professor at a top Gujarat University college and senior functionary of the People's Union for Civil Liberties, said it was shocking how officials were trying to attack people for not effecting the ban. "I am an ordinary consumer. I do not know what this single use plastic is. Hence I take it from the vendor. The government knows it, it has all the machinery to effect the ban. I am flabbergasted how general people are being blamed here. Why don't you locking up industrial units producing it?", he wondered.
*Editor, Counterview


Maya Valecha said…
Production should be stopped at the plastic production level. Again Socialisation of all vital sectors is the key.
To add to what Maya said: the vendors who sell their goods in such bags should be "educated".


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