Will the ubiquitous plastic bag become thing of past in Delhi? After the 2009 notification to restrict the use of plastic bags failed to bring about any change, Delhi government has introduced a blanket ban on plastic bags. Unlike the 2009 notification that allowed use of virgin or bio-degradable plastic of 40 microns or more thickness, the latest ban extends to all varieties of plastic, except the carry bags used for bio-medical waste.
Another difference is that now the ban extends to manufacturing of plastic in Delhi, which was allowed earlier. After learning from the experiences of the 2009 decision, when the ban made plastic bags vanish only from shopping malls and big retail outlets, those who pushed for the complete ban are skeptical if this time it will be any different.
“To implement the ban, we need coordination between the enforcing agencies including Delhi Pollution Control Committee (DPCC), MCD, environment and labour departments and sub-divisional magistrates (SDMs),” said Vikas Jain of Tapas, Delhi based NGO which moved High Court for the plastic ban.
The lax attitude of enforcing agencies is to be blamed as much as the nexus between plastic bag manufacturers and government agencies.
“Traders have a huge influence on MCD. They go all the way to make sure that the ban is not implemented,” said Jain.
However, the state government claims that this time it is better prepared and will make citizens, stakeholders implement the ban.
“People need to learn shopping without plastic bags. We will rope in RWAs and launch an awareness campaign about segregation of waste. We will upload a PowerPoint presentation on our website, explaining the ban. We will also use social networking sites," Sanjiv Kumar, secretary (environment and forest), Delhi government, told Hindustan Times.
A major reason cited against banning the use of plastic bags, is the livelihood of those working in around 200 plastic units in Delhi.
“What will happen to those who will lose their job due to this ban? They are also residents of this city. Before taking any such step, government should introduce a rehabilitation policy for such people. We will take up the matter with the Chief Minister,” said Praveen Khandelwal, general secretary, Confederation of All India Traders.
Yet, Ravi Aggrawal of Delhi based NGO Toxic Links, said that the ban will not affect livelihoods.
“This is a myth, because these units are into manufacturing plastic items other than bags. Not making bags will not result into shutting down of the unit,” Aggarwal said.
Under law violation of ban is punishable with fine of Rs 1 lakh and/or up to seven years of imprisonment.
Shopkeepers and plastic bag traders believe that introducing cheap alternatives in the market are as important as banning plastic bags.
“I agree that plastic is harmful for environment, but do we have enough paper or jute bags to replace plastic bags?” said Deepak Kumar, a vegetable vendor in Chandni Chowk.