Political will on environment missing

On October 2, last most citizens with a concern for the environment expected the Chief Minister to announce a complete ban on single use plastic carry bags, plates, spoons and bottled water. The ban never came. People wondered why. Why is it so difficult to ban single use plastic items? These are affecting the environment the most as they land up in streams, rivers and lakes and clog up drains everywhere thereby generating toxic methane gas. The MDA Government seems to believe that alternatives have to be provided before banning single use plastics. The fact of the matter is that vendors will not think creatively as long as they can palm off cheap plastics to their customers. The Khasi Hills District Council had earlier banned single use plastics but the implementation left much to be desired. Every ban must be followed by strict implementation. This requires that officials in charge make surprise visits to shops and stalls within the jurisdiction of the ADC and a stiff fine be imposed on violators. Else, every law by every constitutional authority is broken with impunity.

This is not to say that all vendors are dismissive of the KHADC order. Many shops have switched to paper bags and cloth bags. Meat shops in many places have started packing meat in leaves. The leaves grow profusely in the entire state of Meghalaya and would fetch a good income for farmers. Dealers in single use plastics are few but it is a huge business. Should one or two traders control the destiny of Meghalaya? The Chief Minister has been making the right noises at national and international fora on the need to mitigate and adapt to Climate Change the biggest global challenge today. One way to mitigate Climate Change is to ensure that plastics do not find their way into our food and water systems. But that’s what’s happening today. Rivers that provide drinking water to lakhs of citizens in the state capital are in a near toxic state with plastics, chemicals from detergents and liquid waste from human habitations making their way into the rivers.

The only landfill at Marten can handle twenty tonnes of waste per day but the amount that is dumped there is ten times the capacity of the machines to handle. Clearly, plastics are a menace and make up the bulk of the waste. There are arguments that banning single use plastics is futile if other food products are still packed in multi-layered plastics. That is a concern too but the Government has to start somewhere and show that it has the political will to address this critical issue of environmental menace.

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