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Metros struggle to check waste

New Delhi:

Delhi is India’s capital city but lags in efforts to control usage of single-use plastics and curb plastic waste.

Experts say a lack of political will to enforce bans on polythene bags with thickness less than 51 microns, which are locally called ‘panni,’ combined with a failure of municipalities to create adequate infrastructure to process plastic waste and the deep-rooted habit of using polythene bags have made Delhi a poor example to be emulated by other Indian cities.

The Capital tops the list of plastic waste generators among all big metropolises. A report of the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) in 2011 showed Delhi generated 689.52 metric tonnes of plastic waste a day. This was much more than the plastic waste generated in other metropolitan cities, namely, Chennai (429.39 MT/D), Kolkata (425.72 MT/D), Mumbai (408.27 MT/D) and Bengaluru (313.87 MT/D).

As per CPCB estimates, only about 55% of the total municipal solid waste in Delhi is collected for processing. The three Waste-to-Energy (WTE) plants of the city located at Okhla, Ghazipur and Narela-Bawana together incinerate about 4900 MT/D of plastic waste. The city, with a population of nearly 20 million, generates a total of 10,500 metric tonnes of municipal solid waste a day.

“The polythene ban has, somehow, not been effective in Delhi. The city government, under chief minister Sheila Dikshit, first issued a notification prohibiting all kinds of plastic bag in October 2012. The National Green Tribunal, then, banned polythene less than 50 microns in an order in December 2016, and reiterated it in January 2017,” recalled Ramesh Negi, former principal secretary, urban development in the Delhi government.

Plastic bag manufacturers association and other lobbies have strongly opposed the ban. “Civic bodies have also not worked hard enough to cut the demand and supply chain of single-use plastic, in terms of closing plastic synthesizing factories and fining wholesale dealers. Besides, we need to create more awareness and change the habits of people vis a vis polythene,” Negi said.

North Delhi Municipal Corporation commissioner Varsha Joshi said they are putting in all possible efforts to curb illegal polythene and single-use plastic since Prime Minister Modi’s call to phase out these products. “We are already creating three model wards that would be fully compliant with the Solid Waste Management Bylaws of Delhi 2018 in Pitampura, Rajendra Nagar and Rohini. Besides, we have launched massive awareness drives on the subject, set up plastic collection and recycling units in collaboration with NGOs like Chintan. At least 25 tonnes of plastic waste has already been deposited here by people,” she said.

The scenario is similar in many other megacities. Mumbai, a coastal city that has been dealing with plastic-flooded beaches, banned single-use plastic last year, but it’s still available in the market. Some large-scale businesses have moved away from single-use plastics but many small-scale units are yet to make the switch.

“There are huge gaps in the implementation of the ban. Many units have been impacted while some are facing closure. Both the users and manufacturers are fragmened. There is huge section both of consumers as well as manufacturers that depends on single-use plastic because of low costs. The ban needs to be supported by a full-fledged plan of the government to address the issue that exists on such a large scale, from economics to alternatives to awareness, monitoring and penal action,” said Akhilesh Bhargava, Mumbai-based manufacturer and member of All India Plastic Manufacturing Association (AIPMA).

A study by Central Marine Fisheries Research Institute (CMFRI) last year said fishing areas off the coast of Mumbai have the highest concentration of plastic waste in the country. The study found such sites had 131.85kg of plastics per square kilometre, owing in part to heaps of plastic bottles, sachets, pouches of snacks, milk packets that are dumped in beaches and public places and are washed into the sea.

The Bengaluru municipal corporation banned manufacturing, supply, sale and use of plastic items such as bags, cutlery, flex, banners, flags and other forms in March 2016 but they are yet to be completely weeded out of daily use.

“We had banned all such items using micro plastic beads in 2016. But the problem we are facing is that there’s still a demand and we are getting plastic from outside the state. The main issue being faced is of carry bags. We plan to step up enforcement on this front,” said BH Anil Kumar, commissioner of the Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike (BBMP).

Kolkata banned the use of plastic under 40 microns almost a decade ago but there are still some pockets where use of these forms of plastic is ramp[ant.

The Kolkata Municipal Corporation (KMC) has a dedicated department and a team of inspectors to enforce the ban. Those flouting the rules are levied a penalty.

“The ban has been successfully enforced in some areas and there is a greater degree of awareness among people now. In most markets only upcycled cloth bags are used. However, plastic is still a part of everyday life in some pockets and we are trying to reach out to these areas,” said a municipal official who did not wish to be quoted.

First Published:
Oct 11, 2019 23:33 IST

Source: HindustanTimes