The drive to make Panaji totally plastic free is proving to be one-eyed. The Corporation of the City of Panaji authorities that claim to have enforced a ban on plastic bags are acting selectively and discriminatingly. After imposing a ban they realized a penalty of Rs 5,000 from any shopkeeper violating it in the municipal market; they confiscated plastic bags from shopkeepers and vendors. They have succeeded in reducing use of plastic bags in the market to a large extent. However, plastic bags continue to be used elsewhere in the city. Stores across the city are still using plastic packaging. The vendors participating in the Lokutsav are freely dispensing off items in plastic bags. The CCP authorities have not made any effort to stop plastic use at a festival that is being organized and funded by the state government. Do the CCP mayor and chief executive officer need to be told that use of plastic bags does not begin and end in the municipal market? If they want to make the capital city plastic free they have to enforce the ban uniformly and effectively.
The state has been fighting the plastic menace since 2000 but all its efforts have failed to yield the desired results. More than a year ago, Chief Minister Manohar Parrikar announced that plastic bags below 50 microns would be banned in the state from May 30, 2018. Accordingly, the CCP and the Margao and Mapusa municipal councils joined the government efforts to make Goa plastic free. The authorities directed the shopkeepers who wanted to dispense items in plastic bags after the ban came into effect to register themselves with the government. The authorities made the shopkeepers pay a monthly fine of Rs 4,000 or an annual fine of Rs 48,000. The justification for levying fees was to discourage use of plastic, which was hazardous to environment as it was not biodegradable. However, following opposition from shopkeepers the idea was dropped for the time being. But a ban was imposed by the CCP from October 2 with major penalties. With fines imposed on errant shopkeepers, the ban is being strictly observed in the market. However, the vendors at the Lokutsav, many of whom are from outside the state, are using plastic bags and there is need for the CCP authorities to act to stop that.
Plastic is one of the most toxic substances in the world; there are several hazards of plastic usage. It is common knowledge that plastic besides being an environmental hazard and eyesore is the main reason for choking of drains. Studies have found that plastic can last forever: 33 per cent of all plastic (water bottles, bags and straws) is used just once and thrown away. As it is not biodegradable it breaks down into smaller pieces, but remains. Toxic chemicals have been found to cause cancers, birth defects, impaired immunity, endocrine disruption and other ailments. Given its adverse impact on environment and health of people as well as animal life, its use should be minimal and single use plastic items should be totally banned. Businesses and common people use plastics, despite their knowledge of it being hazardous, because it is cheap and convenient. Though over the years biodegradable plastic has emerged in the market, its use is on a lesser scale because of the cost factor.
There are cases of plastic being collected and burnt to keep the area clean. Burning of plastics leads to contamination of the atmosphere and air pollution. It also causes skin and respiratory problems due to inhalation of toxic chemicals. Given the dangers from use of plastics, the state authorities must enforce a complete effective ban. Most of the past efforts by the government have failed because the implementation of the ban was casual, lethargic and faulty. Besides, the charge of implementation of the ban has been given to local self governing bodies, which do not have qualified staff and expertise to deal with the ban. The ban has been imposed randomly and mainly in a few areas. While the CCP has imposed ban, it is not applicable to people from nearby areas like Taleigao, St Cruz or Mapusa. There is need for an effective statewide ban, which would help in rooting out the scourge of plastic. The ban on plastic should be planned well by involving officials of all the local bodies so as to ensure its effective and smooth implementation. Goa cannot be plastic free without the active involvement of the state government.