It took government 12 years to implement sub section 3 ofsection 7 of Jammu & Kashmir Non-Biodegradable Material (ManagementHandling & Disposal) Act 2007 (JK NBM Act 2007) wherein government haspowers to ban the use of Non- Bio degradable material. Sub section 3 of section7 of this act reads
"If the Government inconsultation with Prescribed Authority is of the opinion that use of anynon-bio degradable material in any non-bio degradable material control area orpart thereof may cause, or is likely to cause environmental, health or otherproblems , it may by notification in the Government gazette ban, prohibit orrestrict the use of such non bio degradable material in the non-biodegradablearea of part thereof with effect from such date being not less than one month,from the date of publication of notification as may be specified in thenotification "
Vide SRO 231 Government of J&K through the department ofForests, Environment & Ecology in consultation with the PrescribedAuthority ie J&K State Pollution Control Board (JKSPCB) on March 26th 2019issued formal orders to completely ban the non-biodegradable disposables(mostly plastic material) like disposable plates, cups, bowls, tumblers,spoons, forks and knives etc. Pertinently J&K state has already beendeclared as a non-biodegradable material control area under NBM Act 2007. Thedecision taken by Government is indeed a welcome step but authorities need toexplore the alternatives to non-biodegradable material so that people who areinvolved in its trade don't lose their livelihood.
The term "biodegradable" refers to the ability of materials to break down and return to nature. In order for packaging products or materials to qualify as biodegradable, they must completely break down and decompose into natural elements within a short time after disposal – typically a year or less than that.
The ability to biodegrade reduces the buildup of waste, contributing to a safer, cleaner and healthier environment. There are disposables available in the market outside J&K which are not only biodegradable but even compostable.
These products are made from natural residual materials or circular materials. No chemicals or toxins are added during the production process, resulting in a 100% biodegradable or compostable product. Most of the biodegradable disposable goods are made from bamboo, palm leaves, banana leaves, bagasse, paper and cardboard etc.
The non-biodegradable disposable items made up of plastic, foam or thermocol like material has destroyed our state especially Kashmir valley during last 20 years.
Srinagar city alone produces more than 450 metric tons of waste daily out of which around 30 % is plastic, foam, thermocol etc. Now we don't even have a space available to landfill this waste and that is the reason plastic trash is found scattered in open plots , water-bodies and roadsides.
Successive Governments must be held accountable for not implementing the law which was enacted 12 years back. State Pollution Control Board which is the Prescribed Authority to implement J&K NBM Act 2007, has infact given clearance to number of small scale plastic disposable material units that operate across state.
The same needs to be investigated. Now as the Government has decided to enforce ban on use of Non-Biodegradable disposable items, I would suggest that people associated with this trade be encouraged to promote Bio-degradable disposable material.
These products are very much available in market but the same are not promoted due to unknown reasons. This is the right time to explore the supply and sale of Bio-degradable material so that same is used during marriage and other functions.
Government needs to incentivize and subsidize business units that deal with production and sale of biodegradable disposable material in the same way as was done in early 1970s when Srinagar Tongawalas were given free permits and subsidies to buy passenger vehicles….
Dr Raja Muzaffar Bhat is Chairman of Jammu & Kashmir RTI Movement