Ludhiana: The sight of polythene bags chocking drains has become a familiar one in Punjab, despite the fact that the state has a five-year-old legislation to ban bags of less than 30 microns thickness.
However, the state government and the Punjab Pollution Control Board (PPCB) have an escape route for failing to act: The Punjab Plastic Carry Bags (Manufacture, Usage and Disposal) Control Act 2005, which was passed and adopted by the Vidhan Sabha in 2005, was amended a year later and that amendment has not been notified.
According to the September 2006 amendment, the state had given 18 months to manufacturing units to stop making poly bags of less than 30 micron thickness. But with the amended law yet to be notified, its clauses 14 and 17, which specify punishment and penalties for violators, are still exempted from implementation.
Consequently, municipal authorities and deputy commissioners have no powers to penalize manufacturers or suppliers of such poly bags, which are easily found at retail outlets.
Punjab plastic manufacturing units association president MS Dhingra blamed the state government and PPCB for their “callous attitude“ in implementing the environmental norms both at the manufacturing as well as the trading and consumer levels.
“It is a trade worth Rs 2 crore every day,“ Dhingra said, admitting that bags as thin as 10 microns were still being manufactured across the state without any regulation.
“The government has never called us to discuss such a crucial issue that affects our livelihoods,“ he said.
At least 800 plastic bag manufacturing units existed in Punjab, with 250 in Ludhiana and about 100 each in Jalandhar and Amritsar, he said. “Their hands are tied because of the demand of thin (less than 20 microns) bags at the retailer end,“ he said. “Every shopkeeper wants more number of bags in one kg of plastic bags that costs Rs 95 to 100 a pack.“ PPCB ROLE PPCB member secretary Babu Ram said the complaints, if any, did not reach the PPCB headquarters at Patiala as the board’s regional officers were “already doing their job“.
Brushing aside the query on the board’s role in checking hazardous polyethylene bags, the senior official said there was no such mechanism where the board could act directly, and local authorities like municipal bodies should take the lead in banning these bags.
An official of the Muktsar municipal committee said on the condition of anonymity that they had raided two wholesale dealers of poly bags but the supply of the banned polyethylene continued due to “political pressure“.