Single-Use Plastic Ban To Be Effective In Kerala Starting 2020
Kerala has achieved an open-defecation free (ODF) status. That will make you believe that the God's own country is spic and span but locals have a different story to share. Garbage disposal and waste management remains one of the grave concerns for every Keralite and little has been done to address this so far. However, the Kerala government has decided to ban single-use plastic, starting January 1, 2020. A meeting to this effect was chaired by chief minister Pinarayi Vijayan. WIth this, Kerala has joined the list of 18 Indian states that have already banned plastic use. This could be a solution but the larger problem of waste management will still need some thought.
What is banned?
Plastic carry bags and sheets, cooling films, plastic plates, cups, thermocol and Styrofoam-based fancy items and others have been banned. "Single-use plastic cups, plates, spoons, forks, straws, stirrers, bowls, plastic flags, water pouches, juice packs, pet bottles (under 300 ml), plastic garbage bags, PVC flex
materials, plastic packets, among others have been banned," Vijayan said. Those who violate the rule will have to face legal action under the Environment
Protection Act, 1986.
Who are authorised to take action?
District Collectors, Sub-Divisional Magistrates, Pollution Control Board-appointed officials are authorised to take action against the violators. A penalty amounting from Rs 10,000-50,000 could be levied on retail dealers for violations or repeat violations. It could even lead to licence cancellation, confirmed the Chief Minister.
KeraFed, Milma and Kerala Water Authority will buy back the plastic bottles from consumers.
Five per cent of the land in industrial parks will be earmarked for waste management and recycling.
The Industries department will also aid production units that produce eco-friendly bags.
Waste management in Kerala remains a problem
Consider Amy Andrew's case.
Andrew, 75, is a resident of Chengannur — a town in the Pathanamthitta district. Not long back, this district was in the list of areas with the cleanest air in the country. Kollam, another district in the state, also featured in the list. Thanks to the greenery and vegetation around, happy news such as this does come up once in a while. But for the Andrews', the daily struggle to segregate and dispose garbage is a menace. There is no corporation drive that pays heed to this. Biodegradable waste is dumped into the backyard and non-biodegradable wastes are often dumped into a corner of one's farm or more often burnt.
Andrew, a retired professor, says: “There is no lack of civic sense among people. They are disciplined, too, which is why you shouldn't be surprised to see vermiculture and biogas units for domestic use. But, how much can you expect from the elderly? I am 75, and my children are working abroad, shouldn't the authorities try and help address this issue?”
Retired civil engineer from the Bihar Irrigation Department Dr. M Mathai, who lives at Nellickamon, Ranni, religiously segregates all the domestic waste to dispose it in the least hazardous manner. His farmland soaks in the degradable waste but for other things ― discarded bags, slippers, bottles, plastic ― burning it is the only solution.
Most residents agree that there has been nil participation from the authorities. Even the hotbed of NRI (non-resident Indians) investments, Ernakulam and Trivandrum face similar predicament.
With regard to development, the following projects are being eagerly awaited:
- In Kozhikode, for the urban development ministry's flagship project Atal Mission for Rejuvenation and Urban Transformation, a consultant has yet to be appointed. The Centre had already sanctioned Rs 70 crore for the city to be channelised in the development of water supply, sewage and septage, drainage and green cover.
- The Chottanikkara Panchayat has been pulled up by the Kerala High Court for its waste disposal mechanism. Waste was being dumped in open yards. Alternative arrangements are being deliberated.
- Those without backyards at home consider dumping waste into water channels polluting areas along the water body's length and breadth. The Piravom Municipality has decided to slap a fine of Rs 25,000 on people dumping waste into water.
- In Chengannur, hotels and commercial outlets have released their waste into open drains that has led to residents complain of stench and pollution. Reportedly, there has been no action and families are awaiting respite.
- Ten mild sewerage plants are to be set up in Sabarimala at a cost of Rs 30 crore.
Across the state, many such developmental projects are being undertaken but the implementation faces a lot of lag.
“Real estate may get a boost in areas where facilities for waste management and collection is being supervised by the municipal corporation. Most youngsters living and working in Kochi would not prefer other towns in the city despite the visible beauty and cleanliness. They are looking at the ease of living,” says Santhosh Sachidanandan, employed at the Technopark in Trivandrum.
Hailing from Konni, Pathanamthitta, he has no intentions of going back to it because every day hassle of managing these things is not his cup of tea.
Karthika, his wife, says: “With a competitive environment at workplace, there is little or no time to attend to these things. We are planning on a 3BHK apartment in Ernakulam, where the society manages such things but yes, these are privately engaged sanitation workers and they, too, do not know of any dedicated space to dump domestic waste. The environment will degrade further.”
The local government should balance the scale allowing a healthy lifestyle in the absence of which even an ODF status and clean status of the state is of little use.