THE Corporation of the City of Panaji (CCP) is enforcing a yet another ban on use of plastic in the capital city. The effect of the ban was visible in the city market with none of the businesses dispensing goods in plastic bags. Unlike the past drives against plastic, this drive has some force because the CCP officials gave enough time to the commercial establishments and traders to prepare for it and also visited shops in the city market to collect plastic bags stored by them so as to prevent their use. They distributed 25,000 and 6,000 biodegradable bags among traders and citizens, respectively free of cost. Violation will attract a fine which would depend upon the quantity of the banned substance.
Unlike in the past when businesses would circumvent the ban by clandestinely disposing goods in plastic bags, this time they appear to have taken the ban seriously and made alternate arrangements to dispense goods. Bags made of cotton and jute were available in the city market for customers. The CCP authorities have made a good beginning as the effect of the plastic ban is visible all around the city. To ensure that the latest ban does not meet the same fate as that of the previous ones, it is necessary that the civic body strictly implements it and ensures that anybody found violating the latest drive to make Panaji plastic free is meted out punishment. Effective implementation of the ban would help in meeting the desired goal. Constant vigilance has to be maintained so that shopkeepers and customers do not return to plastic bags. As is the case with anything newly introduced, it takes time to become acceptable to the general public. The introduction of non-plastic bags and the changes sought to be made in the daily life could take some time to yield positive results. Monitoring of the effect of the ban by the authorities over a period of time would go a long way in achieving the desired results.
The implementation of the plastic ban in the city would complement the Nitol Goem, Swacch Bharat drive as plastic is considered a major polluting agent. The CCP could do well to ensure that the focus was not only on banning the plastic but also on not allowing it to resurface in one form or another. One of the main reasons of flooding in the city is plastic bags and other items which choke the drains and culverts. With plastic bags gone the problem could be better addressed.
The city market wears a shabby look, with the walls of the new market bearing the brunt of those chewing paan, gutkha and other similar substances and spitting on the walls. While the ban on plastic bags would help the authorities deal with the nuisance and related problems caused by them, it is necessary that authorities also deal with those causing nuisance by chewing paan and other items and dirtying not only city market but other places in the city too. Moreover, open defecation also needs to be addressed quickly and effectively to keep Panaji clean and tidy. A piecemeal approach in dealing only with plastic bags would not help in maintaining cleanliness in the city and the authorities would have to go all out against all factors that contribute to generation of filth in the city.
Though the CCP has taken steps to prevent dispensation of goods in plastic bags in the city market and shops, there is possibility of plastic bags being brought from outside the limits of the city. The authorities need to have a foolproof method to deal with such a situation and ensure that plastic bags are not smuggled into the city. People have the habit of keeping used plastic bags for disposal of the solid waste generated within homes and business premises. The waste is disposed along the roadsides, especially during the nights and odd hours. The CCP would need to adopt a multi-pronged strategy to keep the city clean and involve citizen groups to make the ban a success. The possibility of plastic bags being brought by people from other parts and tourists is always there. The state government must enforce a uniform ban on use of plastic bags by all businesses, Goans and tourists. It is not that only Panaji is affected by plastic bags. Other parts of the state face the same problem. The fight against plastics should be statewide and not limited to the jurisdiction of CCP alone.