The sale and use of non-biodegradable plastic bags, which are less than 50 microns, would now attract a hefty fine of Rs 5,000. The National Green Tribunal on Thursday imposed this interim ban.
Slamming the AAP government for its lackadaisical approach in implementing its own 2012 ban, the green panel directed Delhi Pollution Control Committee (DPCC) and other authorities to seize the entire stock of such plastic within one week from Thursday. The NGT clarified that this is an interim direction which may be changed after hearing all the parties concerned.
"We must express dissatisfaction over the way the Delhi government has implemented the direction of the tribunal in preventing and controlling pollution resulting from the indiscriminate use of plastic waste more particularly the carry bags of thickness 50 microns which are used in the market. There shall be complete prohibition on use of non-compostable plastic bags which are less than 50 microns in entire Delhi for any purpose whatsoever. The city government and the Delhi Pollution Control Committee shall ensure that sale, use and storage of such plastic in not allowed at shops or otherwise," a bench, headed by NGT chairperson Justice Swatanter Kumar, said.
"The tribunal noted that plastic degrades environment and causes serious damage to the health of human beings and animals. The sewer lines get choked due to indiscriminate dumping of plastic which also blocks free flow of water resulting in flooding of streets in the rainy season," the tribunal said.
Even the animals are subjected to the diseases and even death as a result of plastic getting mixed with wet waste which they eat. "Public authorities have failed to take appropriate steps in this regard and fulfill their statutory obligations," the bench, also comprising Justice R S Rathore and expert member B S Sajwan, said.
The tribunal also directed the city government and the DPCC to file an affidavit by a senior most officer and inform it how directions with regard to waste management in the city were being implemented particularly with respect to plastics. Dunu Roy, an environment activist associated with Delhi-based Hazards Centre, said there was nothing new in the order and the plastic manufactures will have no problem with the prohibition as ultimately the consumer will suffer by shelling money for bags.
"There is nothing new in the NGT order. The tribunal's direction is only progression of an old issue as the authorities have failed to ensure prohibition. Banning plastic of less than 50 microns would serve no problem. Plastic of all kinds should be banned. The NGT is only looking at the consumption level and the aim should be to stop at the production level. The manufactures will produce thicker material and ultimately the consumer will have to shell out the cost. Cotton bags should be promoted by the authorities. Unfortunately, the alternatives are not being looked at," Roy said.
Industry body All India Plastics Manufacturers Association welcomed the verdict and said it supports the NGT order in entirety. "We welcome the NGT order banning plastic bags of less than 50 microns. The order is in line with the Plastic Waste Management Rules 2016. The direction should be strictly implemented by the authorities. Thicker plastic means it can be used again and again. This would also benefit rag pickers economically," the association said.