IT IS concerning that the government, despite repeated pledges to stop single-use plastics in coastal areas and put in place a proper plastic management system, has largely failed to attend to the problem that poses serious threats to public health, the environment and the aquatic life. The environment ministry on Thursday asked divisional commissioners to take measures to stop the use of single-use or disposable plastics in coastal areas in a year which brings to the fore the High Court directive of January 2020 for the government to ban the use of disposable plastic containers in coastal areas. The court also directed the government to implement the ban in a year. Now that the environment minister has come to ask the divisional commissioners to take steps to make the coastal belt a plastic-free zone suggests that the court directive has gone unheeded. Court directives, executive orders and recommendations for an environmentally-friendly waste management and for stopping the use of single-use plastic products have come aplenty, but none has been implemented. Bangladesh, in fact, became a pioneer in banning single-use plastic bags in 2002, but the move lost its efficacy because of non-enforcement of the ban.
Bangladesh is reported to generate more than 3,000 tonnes of plastic wastes every day, as an environment department report says, and 25 per cent of it flows through rivers and is discharged into the Bay of Bengal, with 36 per cent being recycled and 39 per cent finding their way to ill-managed dumps. A Waste Concern study shows that Bangladesh generates about 821,250 tonnes of plastic wastes in urban hubs each year and about 207,685 tonnes of them are dumped in the Bay, choking the marine life. While the full impact of plastic waste on marine and terrestrial ecosystems has not yet been apparent, some environmental damage that plastics cause has been clear. The environment minister’s order, in such a situation, could be of great help in stopping plastic pollution of the Bay only if the government in earnest implements what it has pledged. Plastic pollution in coastal areas has made the headlines many times but the government and the local administration have failed to put in place an organised waste management system in the areas. In the absence of effective waste management in urban hubs, plastic wastes continue to flow into the Bay.
The government must, therefore, put in place an effective oversight to prevent plastic pollution and encourage industries to stop producing plastic and to use locally available biodegradable options. A greater awareness campaign is also a must to make people party to plastic use reduction. The government must not do all this only to stop the plastic pollution of the Bay and the environment but also to stop any threat to soil fertility and the pollution of air and water.
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