On this day, a year ago, the Nationalist Democratic Progressive Party (NDPP)-led People’s Democratic Alliance (PDA) government announced that single-use plastic items would be banned in the state. The declaration was made on World Environment Day last year. Lots of awareness programmes on the ill-effects of plastic items have been conducted across the state by several government departments, non-governmental organisations and civil society over the last one year. By now, most citizens of the state must be aware of the hazards plastic pollution can have on human health, marine life, animals and environment. Well, so much has been said and written about it, but how successful is the campaign? What is the response of the public to this noble cause?
The fact that drainages, especially in the cities and towns are filled with plastic bags, bottles, paper cups and plates is a testimony of how the general public has responded to the call of the government. A Kohima-based non profit organisation had earlier this year found out during an awareness programme for shopkeepers in the state capital city that about 90 percent of the shoppers still use plastic bags despite repeated calls from the government to give up single-use plastic items. The Himalayan Cleanup Campaign (THC) Nagaland Chapter has stated that 23,102 kg of waste was collected during the recent mass cleanliness drive organised in seven districts and nine locations of the state. It found out during the analysis of the collected waste that PET (polyethylene terephthalate) bottle was the highest polluter, followed by multi-layered plastic, and single-use plastic. The waste collected was only from six hours of social work, indicating that use of plastic items in the state is gross and calls for the need to arrest it as soon as possible.
When a ban is imposed on anything, an alternative has to be in place as it can lead to inconveniences including loss of employment. On this, the state government had said that it has already allotted fund to all the districts from the Chief Minister’s corpus fund to promote bamboo products like bags, baskets and containers as an alternative to plastic products. Besides this, some departments have donated sewing machines and other materials to community centres so that people can make cloth bags and generate revenue at the same time. This indicates seriousness on the part of the government in combating plastic menace in the state. Lawmakers are responsible for framing policies that can have impact on the society but its success depends on the response of the citizens. Amid gross use of plastic items in the state, continuous awareness campaigns didn’t go to waste. Today, you can hear ordinary people talking about plastic pollution and its ill-effects. Many civil society organisations and villages have declared their respective jurisdiction as plastic-free zone which is encouraging. Such measures will take the state a long way in preserving its ecology and rich biodiversity. Plastic bags may be more convenient because of its light weight, resistance to degradation, durability and low cost but the people should know that it takes up to 1000 years for it to biodegrade and the impact it can have on human health and environment outweighs the convenience.