Polythene: It’s strangulating our earth

Time is running fast. Immediate and effective action is needed
"Look over the land, there is polythene. Dig it, and there is polythene. In homes, houses, houseboats, hotels, motels, mountains & forests – everywhere polythene welcomes you." [Representational Image]
"Look over the land, there is polythene. Dig it, and there is polythene. In homes, houses, houseboats, hotels, motels, mountains & forests – everywhere polythene welcomes you." [Representational Image] File: ANI

Where human mind fails to foresee, or overlooks aftermath of an activity, it turns out to be a problem. This has been the hallmark of the undeveloped or underdeveloped countries amongst which we occupy a prominent position.

In the unmindful race on the path of development, the environment is polluted especially with thermal and the radioactive pollutions. Our water resources have got polluted, ponds vanished, streams & springs dried up.

With bulk progress in industrial produce, lakes & rivers have ceased to be source of drinking water, forcing us to depend on tap water flowing from artificial reservoirs at much cost & labour.

Production of conventional, chemical, biological and nuclear war materials has filled the air with pollution. The earth has been polluted with polythene enough to change its chemistry to the detriment of food production.

Look over the land, there is polythene. Dig it, and there is polythene. In homes, houses, houseboats, hotels, motels, mountains & forests – everywhere polythene welcomes you.

At graveyards and the cremation grounds polythene is alive. In mandis, malls, markets & marts, polythene surfaces up. Lanes, drains and brooks are choked with polythene which ultimately finds its abode in the water bodies, affecting adversely the aquaculture & production besides quality of water. Fauna & flora also do not escape the brunt. Polythene rules the roast.

The elements in it take decades to decompose, culminating in pollution longevity. Not only the polythene pollution, humankind is faced with so many types of pollution like racial, ethnic, moral, political, environment, management, and financial - to name a few. Irony of the fate is that pollutants are none else than the hoi-polloi itself who cry for prevention and cure of this suicidal negligence.

However, for looking after the affairs relating to environmental pollution the Government has created ( like other Offices, Corporations, Companies, Authorities, Boards), the J & K State Pollution Control Board (SPCB) vide Order No. 34 of 1987 dated 3-8-1987 vide SRO. 88, under the Provisions of Water (Prevention & Control of Pollution) Act, 1974.

The Board has been performing its duties under the provisions of this Act and the Air (Prevention & Control of Pollution) Act, 1981. The Board has been assigned with the additional responsibilities for enactment of Environment (Protection) Act, 1986 which has a large domain of regulatory and developmental functions.

To arm SPCB the Government, vide SRO 45 of 2017 dated 3-2-2017 of Department of Law in consultation with the Board, has imposed ban on the manufacturing, stocking, distribution, sale, use of polythene bags, plastic sheets or like, cover made of plastic sheets, plastic packaging and multilayered packaging less than 50 microns thickness within the territorial limits of Jammu & Kashmir.

Under the said SRO the Health Care Establishments are an exception to the extent of the use of polythene bags for handling & disposal of bio-medical waste as per the Bio-Medical Waste (Management and Handling ) Rules.

Alongside functioning of SPCB, the menace of polythene pollution has continued unabated at an increasing scale in J & K posing serious threats to eco–fragile environ in the Himalayan range.

The excessive and avoidable use of polythene has reached to even tourist spots. This has attracted the attention of Hon’ble High Court of J & K directing the Government to ban polythene across all tourist destinations and the SPCB to implement SRO. 45 through which ban has been imposed.

As polythene is polythene its thickness below or above 50 microns does not make it environment friendly. That is why the Environmentalists and the Earth Sciences experts have expressed their concern after the Government allowed use of polythene bags of above 50 microns thickness.

During 12/2017 to 11/2018 the SPCB is reported to have seized 20 quintals of polythene besides 12 tons of illegal polythene trafficked. Taking 32, 50,000 household units constituting instant population of 1.30 crore approximately with consumption of three polythene bags per day, 355.8750 crore polythene bags raid the J& K annually.

Viewing its massive assault on earth its returns in production are bound to decrease with simultaneous increase in deleterious outcomes. Indifference to check polythene pollution will embolden it to hover over our heads. Despite trying its best in its domain the SPCB has, however, lagged behind to prevent the massive influx of illegal import of polythene.

It is also said that there is a large nexus of influential people involved illegally in the trade. The allegation may or may not be true but the results noticed are uncontested and irrefutably true. Lack of proper mechanism to ascertain the thickness of polythene is also counted to be hindering the scrutiny.

Now the SPCB seems to have decided to procure Electronic Micro Meters to judge scientifically the thickness of below 50 microns polythene in each district. District level checking is good, better is to check & prevent the illegal and unwanted import of polythene at the inter/intra–state entry points to Jammu & Kashmir at Toll Post Lakhanpur, Lower Munda Qazigund, Rajouri-Shopian Mughal Road or wherever such points exist.

Axe the source, shoots will end up. The manpower of the SPCB may also be augmented. The mobility, connectivity and detective measures may be sharpened, enhanced and synchronized in collaboration with Departments of Police, Excise and State Taxes to prevent any illegal trafficking of the trade. Before the advent of polythene bags/covers people would carry on smoothly with paper & cloth bags/covers unless where there was a Hobson’s choice.

Let the precedence be revived, encouraged and followed de novo by encouraging the local producers and the consumers concerned. Using utensils for fetching milk, curd, cheese and cloth/ paper bags for bringing vegetables & other edibles as we used to do earlier can also prove good reducers.

The healthcare establishments may be asked to minimise the use of polythene as possible and enjoined upon to dispose of such and other wastes scientifically using incinerators etc.

Chemical engineering experts may also be roped in to research on the chemistry of polythene to explore the possibility of recycling the used polythene into a product innocuous to the people and the environ.

Moreover, sources of polythene production throughout the country are also to be bridled in consonance with the rules & regulations for pollution control checks & balances. Little and decreased purchase of polythene, and reuse of purchased material will also contribute significantly to its mass.

Time is running fast. Action is needed for remedial measures at individual, societal and government level to witness a somewhat secure future. If the giant of nexus of the classes, nonchalance of the masses and inadequate action of government continues no ‘bans’ or ‘Boards’ will fructify nor any ‘directions’ or ‘concerns’ carry any weight.

The author is a former Sr. Audit Officer and Consultant in the A.G’s Office Srinagar.

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are the personal opinions of the author.

The facts, analysis, assumptions and perspective appearing in the article do not reflect the views of GK.

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