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Time for a total ban on plastic

Deccan Herald, New Delhi, 5th April, 2013

Say no to plastic bags’. Despite such sloganeering and some measures taken by the government to ban plastic, it continues to clog drains, pollute rivers and kill animals. Choked drains, during the monsoon, have often led to flooding of roads in Delhi.

Metrolife speaks to experts to understand why plastic bags refuse to fade into oblivion. Ravi Agarwal, director of Toxics Link, an environmental NGO, calls for responsible behaviour from everyone. He says, “The real issue is with the industry that produces plastic bags — they keep on making them and we keep on using them. The industry has too much power and that is the reason enforcement is weak.”

Agarwal is concerned that nobody seems to understand the damage caused by plastic bags that are dumped in tonnes near railway tracks and in open drains. Plastic bags clog gutters and drains, causing water and sewage to overflow, turning roads into cesspools during the monsoon. They pollute rivers and harm aquatic life as plastic takes thousands of years to decompose.

Deadly diet

Cows foraging in dustbins end up eating plastic which often results in their painful death. According to Tapas, on an average, 35,000 cows die each year in the City due to consumption of plastic bags. V K Jain, founder of Tapas, an NGO, says: “Not only is plastic harmful to animals, when plastic is burnt, it releases methane and carbon dioxide which can cause cancer.”

Rukmani Sekhar, who is part of the ‘Plastic Cow’ campaign, alleges that the State is guilty of violating the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, 1960. “Cows in the City can be seen eating garbage. People fill plastic bags with garbage, knot the bags and throw them in public dustbins. Cows don’t have paws to untie the plastic knots, so they end up eating the whole bag. The ingested plastic, that is a part of the cow’s daily diet, forms a concrete mass in the stomach and ruins its rumen. Only surgery can remove the plastic mass.”

Members of ‘Plastic Cow’ had filed a PIL (public interest litigation) last year. “Till now, we haven’t got the date of hearing. Every single cow in the City has plastic in its stomach, but it seems that nobody wants to take serious note of the issue.”
Why isn’t the government enforcing a total ban on plastic? Is it because the plastic manufacturing industry is a cash cow?