SRINAGAR: Srinagar Municipal Corporation (SMC) has launched a 6-R campaign to implement a complete ban on polythene in Srinagar City. Single-use plastic has been banned in several states of India, including Jammu and Kashmir, however, implementation of ban in J&K has so far been poor, with lack of alternatives being a common barrier.It is believed that ban on polythene will be helpful to revive Kashmiri handicraft industry but there is no doubt that polythene has been rooted deeply in urban as well as rural Kashmir.Last year, the then SMC Commissioner, Gazanfar Ali, in an order directed, “Government has imposed blanket ban on the manufacture, stocking, distribution, sale and use of the polythene carrying bags, plastic sheets or like, cover made of plastic sheets, plastic packaging and multilayered packaging of less than 50 microns in thickness.” The order remained on tables of the offices and was not implemented in the city.Earlier in 2017, an order had been issued by the then Govt. of Jammu and Kashmir through the Department of Forest Environment and Ecology under SRO 45, which read, “In exercise of powers conferred by sub -section (3)of section 7 of the Jammu and Kashmir State Non -Biodegradable of Material (Management Handing and Disposal) Act 2007 and in supersession of Notification SRO 182of 2008 dated 18th June, 2008, the Government after consultation with the prescribed authority (J&K State Pollution Control Board ) hereby impose ban on the manufacturing, stocking, distribution, sale and use of polythene carry bags, plastic sheets or like cover made of plastic sheets, plastic packaging and multilayered packaging less than fifty microns in thickness within the territorial limits of the State of Jammu and Kashmir.”In the notification, it was clearly mentioned that it would not be applicable for Health care Establishments to the extent of the use of polythene carry-bags for handling and disposal of bio-medical waste as per Bio Medical Waste (Management and Handling )Rules.In 2018, Jammu and Kashmir High Court ordered complete ban on polythene in Jammu and Kashmir and in particular main cities of Srinagar and Jammu to curb environmental degradation. Court said that due to nom availability of proper waste treatment management in Srinagar and Jammu, the two cities are producing average 700 tonnes of polythene on daily-basis, which could lead environmental destruction on huge level .After two years, court found there were no implementation of the order on ground level, as Government agencies have completely failed in the matter.Later, on November 23, 2020 Jammu and Kashmir High Court sought personal appearance via video conferencing of top officials of various departments to submit action taken report regarding prohibition on polythene in ecologically fragile J&KThe experts are very much concerned about ban on usage of polythene in Kashmir valley, as traditional handicrafts industry of Kashmir could provide innovative solutions as alternatives to plastic. In Kashmir valley current status of traditional artisans is not so good, especially those making wicker baskets. The possibility of the revival of the wicker work is totally dependent on the complete polythene ban. “People now prefer plastic for everything,” told an artisan to STATE TIMES. More than a decade ago, wickers were used for all house-hold item. These baskets are made from locally produced kaani (wicker) by local artisans and craftsmen. In Hazratbal area of Srinagar there were hundreds of families associated with wicker work and they were very famous not only in Kashmir but worldwide. The local artisans recalled that era when these basket were used in carrying and storing farm-produce and other commodities. But now, artisans are very upset that people have stopped using local products for carrying things and started using cheap and easily available plastic carry-bags and containers.“The locally made products which we sell, are safe to use and can be reused for years. But people still prefer to carry things in plastic bags and later throw them in Dal Lake and other water bodies.” they added.Reducing plastic production is also important for combating climate change. The growing population in Srinagar and other major urban centres of Kashmir has led to the mismanagement of waste and generation of tonnes of non-biodegradable plastic trash that eventually gets dumped in the landfills and water bodies. The environmental mess in Kashmir today underlines the need for an urgent and comprehensive waste management strategy. The region’s tourism industry thrives on the landscape of stunning lakes and mountain resorts, which are now under constant threat from poor waste management practices. Phasing out plastics through the promotion of local traditional products can help restoring Kashmir landscape while offering additional livelihood options to people in Jammu and Kashmir.The initiative started by SMC needs extensive coverage for implementation of polythene ban more strictly.There should be huge fine on all found involved in carrying, storing and selling polythene. This initiative also needs local support. Without support of people, it is very tough for the administration to curb the polythene menace.
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