Result-oriented action not forthcoming

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There are limits to what even the Supreme Court of India can do to discipline Indians into more socially acceptable behaviour. SC’s order imposing a ban on the use of plastic bags has met with as much success, or failure, as earlier attempts by the civic authorities in Jammu and Srinagar.
Years after the apex court’s decree to this effect, both plastic bags and a variety of products in non-biodegradable plastic sachets are still available in shops across the state. Non-biodegradable plastic poses a threat, both to the environment, and to civic infrastructure management. In the absence of adequate scientific recycling or disposal facilities, the bulk of plastic bags end up either in landfills, where they tend to last practically forever, or on city roads, where they pose a traffic hazard, and in drains, where they end up clogging sewage systems. Flooding of roads, especially during the monsoon season, is quite common in Jammu as well as other cities of the state. Civic bodies spend huge amounts annually to combat this menace. Yet, regrettably, result-oriented action is not forthcoming to enforce ban on plastic bags. The main argument of plastic bag manufacturers and of the traders, who use them, is that there is no equally inexpensive and convenient alternative. This is factually correct.
But the argument is based on private costing rather than the social cost of plastic bags. The incentive to look for ecologically acceptable alternatives would go up if the manufacture of plastic bags is effectively prohibited and the ban on their use effectively policed. There was life before plastic bags came into mass use. Most shoppers, especially those buying vegetables and other consumables of daily use carried their own cloth, jute and paper bags and cane baskets from home to bring groceries.
Reusable bags made from other kinds of non-plastic environment-friendly fabrics can also replace these bags. Jammu and Kashmir can learn from the states that have managed to sharply reduce the use of plastic bags. It is indeed appreciable that Minister for Law Abdul Haq Khan said that Government of J&K will soon come with a legislation to make use of polythene bags in the state a cognizable office.
He also added that under ‘My Village, My World’ campaign, Rural Development Department has also launched a campaign against use of polythene bags, giving powers to Block Development official to impose fine on people for using it. Pertinently, to protect the environment and public health, several state and local bodies have called for complete ban on the use of plastic in the state in view of its negative impacts on the people health as well as environment. Besides, legislation awareness on the part of the people can pay rich dividends to avoid from polythene menace. It is also advisable on the part of the people to carry cloth bags while going to market to make purchase. Above all J&K government would deserve kudos if it brings legislation with maximum punishment for those who use polythene bags.

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