Shop owners and residents in India's capital of New Delhi will no longer be allowed to manufacture, import, store, sell or transport any kind of plastic bag starting from November 22 this year, reported The Asian Age on Wednesday, following the introduction of a 'blanket ban' on plastic by state government authorities in order to reduce the capital's annual plastic waste.
The Delhi government had announced its decision to ban all plastic bags on October 22, after estimates showed that over 10 million plastic bags were being discarded daily by New Delhi residents each year.
According to Toxics Link, an environmental NGO, the Indian capital also generated almost 250,000 tons of plastic waste every year, with plastic waste statistics for the entire nation placed at nearly 5.6 million tons.
"In Delhi's 17 million population, there are about 14 million households and each household uses about five to six plastic carry bags a day, which means millions of bags are used and strewn around...Which is a serious problem because it is difficult to collect these littered plastic bags. We need to ban it," a city government official told The Asian Age.
"We had to act and...the government will promote alternatives such as jute, cloth and recycled paper bags and we will begin a serious campaign," added Delhi administration official Pradeep Gupta toDeutsche Welle.
Delhi's Chief Minister Sheila Dixit said that he was effectively forced to ban the use of all plastic bags after a previous law to use thinner plastic was largely ignored; while a similar ban back in 2009 was never implemented properly.
Traders involved in production of plastic bags have been told to stop manufacturing by November 22, while any shopkeepers found to be distributing plastic bags after the deadline will also be fined. According to a senior Delhi official, enforcement agencies will spare households for the time being, but awareness campaigns targeting consumers are also said to be underway.
DW reports that violators of the ban will face fines of up to 100,000 rupees (US$ 1,800) and/or up to five years of imprisonment. The All India Plastic Industries Association (AIPIA) however has slammed the "sudden ban", claiming that it would cause 20,000 people, employed in the industry, to lose their jobs
"The threat posed to the environment by the use of plastic items has been blown out of proportion. Where is the rehabilitation policy for such people who will lose their livelihoods?" said AIPIA president Ravi Aggarwal to DW.
"We will go to the high court, we will fight," Aggarwal promised.
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Indian environmentalists on their part welcomed the ban, but greeted the news with some scepticism.
"Good awareness campaign and specific strategies will help in making this a demand-driven campaign," said Rajiv Betne, a senior programme coordinator at Toxics Link, to theDeccan Herald.
But with around 8 million tons of plastic used by India every year, "use of plastic has become a habit among the public," Betne warned.
'The sudden blanket ban without consulting the actual stake holders or a proper awareness among the public will not bring any change."