Polythene continues to be one of the major concerns for the ecology of the state. The menace of polythene use in the state had compelled the state government to announce a ban on this product twice. Even the High Court, expressed its concern over the use of polythene bags causing environmental degradation and becoming the source of air and water pollution.
But, all said and done, polythene is being used in the state with ease and the implementation of the ban on the product seems to be restricted to the offices of the authorities who have imposed the ban.
Shopkeepers and vendors have been frequently using polythene bags as carry home bags for their customers. The customers, after they no more need thee bags, throw them into the drains of on the streets and these ultimately become the source of air and water pollution.
Ironically, what should be the concern of every human being in the state is that the state government has been turning a blind eye towards the menace of polythene use.
Worse, the state government has allowed manufacture, sale and use of polythene carry bags above 50 microns in thickness to allegedly benefit a strong lobby of polythene manufacturers and importers.
This despite the Jammu and Kashmir High Court imposing a complete ban on the entry, use and sale of polythene bags at tourist places and healthcare institutions since 2006. Subsequently, on June 18, 2008, the JK government banned all kinds of polythene bags in the state by issuing SRO 182 under the J&K Non-Biodegradable Material (Management, Handling and Disposal) Act, 2007.
However, ending the blanket ban on polythene, the government has permitted manufacture, sale and use of polythene above 50 microns.
The SRO 182 of 2008 which had imposed ban on the polythene carry bags, imposed blanket ban on polythene bags while the SRO 45 of 2017, which has been issued by the Forest Ministry imposes ban on polythene carry bags less than fifty microns in thickness, thereby lifting ban on polythene above 50 microns.
It is regrettable that municipal and environmental authorities cannot now do much to control the menace. As per the Plastic Waste Management and Handling Rules, the Urban Local Bodies-Municipal Corporations, Municipal Committees and Municipal Councils are required to enforce ban on polythene by conducting raids, searches and market checking.
Similarly, in the rural areas of the State, Rural Development Department is required to enforce ban through its field functionaries. After seizure of banned polythene bags, these agencies are required to hand over the same to J&K Pollution Control Board, which thereafter get the shredding of the polythene bags conducted before putting the same to auction for recycling.
But, with the issuance of a circular permitting use of polythene bags of thickness of 50 microns, the field agencies are in a fix about how to check the thickness of polythene that is being used in the state.