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Combatting The Impacts Of Pollution

It may not be easy to make a completely plastic-free world in the near future. However, India took an important step on July 1, 2022 to combat worsening pollution, as the South Asian nation of nearly 1.4 billion people imposed a ban on 19 single-use plastic items, including straws, disposable cutlery, earbuds, candy and ice cream packaging, and cigarette packets. The Government of India made it clear that there would be no production, import, storage, supply, sale and use of one-time plastic items. The Indian Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change had banned the manufacture, import, stocking, distribution, sale and use of plastic carry bags, having thickness less than 75 microns, in 2021. Now, plastic carry bags with thickness less than 120 microns will be banned in India from December 31, 2022. In other words, New Delhi has decided to gradually reduce the huge amount of plastic waste.

It has long been proven that plastic pollution is closely linked to environmental pollution in general. As per a 2021 report prepared by an Australian voluntary organisation, one-third of all plastics produced worldwide are one-time items, and 98% of them are made from fossil fuels. It is also important to reduce the use of fossil fuels in order to reduce air pollution. If the use of the plastic bags cannot be controlled immediately, then it would become one of the major sources of greenhouse gas emissions in the future.

Another problem is such used plastics remain largely un-collected. As they do not mix with the environment, one can easily find such single-use plastic items on the roadside or in the empty land. Slowly, they mix with fine particles and enter the human body with food, causing a great danger. Statistics show that India has secured its place in the top 100 countries in the world, as far as ranks the production of single-use plastic waste is concerned. Hence, it is surprising that India had to wait till July 2022 to ban single-use plastic items.

The question arises here is: Why did India take so much time to make this move? So far, Prime Minister Narendra Modi has made various promises in the international arena on pollution. However, the National Clean Air Programme has failed to achieve the desired goal. So, no one can ignore the possibility of the failure in banning the single-use plastic items.

Watch: New Delhi flooded with harmful plastic bags

At the same time, the sincerity of the Provincial Governments can also be questioned. The Government of (eastern Indian Province of) West Bengal has been working hard since July 1 (2022) to strictly enforce the ban on the use of plastic carry bags, having thickness less than 75 microns (imposed in 2021). Even on July 1 (2022), the usage of banned plastic bags was noticed at various places in the provincial capital of Kolkata.

The scenario may well have been different, had the Provincial Government forgotten the political rivalry and taken a joint action with the Government of India on the issue of environmental pollution. Hence, whether India can protect the environment shall depend on the goodwill of the Government of India and Provincial Governments.

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