The Delhi High Court has finally stepped in to awaken the government and the people of Delhi to the menace of plastic bags. The ruling is based on Chopra Committee report which prohibits use of plastic bags whose thickness is below 40 microns.
Many in Delhi are still unaware of this ruling though it came into effect last Saturday.
The Delhi government is yet to issue a notification in this regard and the notification will be predated when issued and would be made applicable with retrospective effect.
One wonders why Delhi has been dragging its feet in implementing this environment friendly law when some states have implemented this years ago. The answer to this might lie in the fact that 1.2 million tons of plastic is recycled every year in Delhi generating a business to the tune of Rs.4,500 crores annually.
There are some 150 registered manufacturing and recycling units producing plastic bags in Delhi and over 10 times that number operating illegally. According to an estimate, only 50 per cent of plastic is recycled in Delhi. Almost 90 per cent of this is done illegally. Apparently, the trader lobby has approached the government seeking time to enable them to come up with alternatives.
In the time to come, you may find no plastic bags at hotels, hospitals, restaurants and shopping malls, in fact, anywhere in Delhi. The day is not far when you would fear disposing of your garbage in plastic bags.
The next time you go out shopping, make sure you carry a cloth, jute or Rexene carry bag. If not, please ensure that you get a paper bag or a bag made of some other bio-degradable material.
The government will come down with a heavy hand when this ruling is implemented. The punishment for using plastic bags is intimidating enough to deter Delhites from using it. Violators may be booked under Environment Protection Act, 1986. The punishment envisages imprisonment up to 5 years and/or fine up to Rs.1 lakh.
Though the ruling is already in force, Delhi government officials may go so soft on this for some time to give time to the people of Delhi to switch over to other environment friendly alternatives. So, prosecutions may not start immediately.
In order to avoid the benefit of doubt with regard to the thickness of bags, the notification may be silent on whether bags with a thickness of more than 40 microns would be permissible since it would be difficult to measure the thickness of the bag at the site of detention. So, it seems there would be a total ban on use of plastic bags in Delhi.
Plastic bags cause environmental problems as they are not bio-degradable. Hence, disposal of plastic bags becomes a problem. Recycling is the only solution. It also chokes rain water drains which cause flooding of roads during monsoons. Plastic bags are also dangerous to animals as consumption of plastic bags may choke them to death.