Banning plastic bags remains a challenge

- Post Report, Kathmandu

Aug 23, 2015-

Kathmandu Valley is still grappling with the challenge of enforcing a ban on plastic bags with thickness below 40 microns in the city. 

On April 14, the Ministry of Science and Technology (MoSTE), following directions from the parliamentary committee on environment, declared a ban on plastic bags inside the Valley promising to end the use of toxic plastics that pose threat to public health and local environment. 

However, despite repeated attempts from the authorities with the recent one coming after the earthquake in July, many places and streets starting from local shops, grocery stores to vendor markets are still seen providing plastic bags to their customers to put purchased stuffs.

Except for some supermarkets and malls, not a single street is seen without polythene bags, admitted Mahendra Gurung, a joint-secretary at MoSTE responsible to effectively implement the ban inside the Valley. 

One of the biggest challenges for the MoSTE and its line department to implement the decision is lack of support and coordination from other concerned ministries including Ministry of Federal Affairs and Local Development, and Ministry of Industry and Ministry of Agriculture among others.

Though the decision to ban plastic bags was made by our ministry, it is a collective decision undertaken involving all concerned government agencies and authorities, said Gurung, adding: “Implementing a ban on plastics is cross-cutting and cross-ministerial issue and without support we alone cannot do much,” he added. 

Gurung gave an instance of Kalimati Vegetables and Fruits Market run under the Agriculture Ministry where the vendors are still giving away plastic bags to their customers who come to buy vegetables or fruits in their shops.  According to authorities, the public response is not adequate when taking up alternatives against the unhealthy plastics. “People still ask for plastic bags when they buy stuffs,” said Shyam Shrestha, a local shopkeeper from Lokhanthali.

Concerned over the ineffective plastic ban campaign inside the Valley, officials at the MoSTE and Department of Environment are planning to come up with stringent action at source level, meaning the manufacturers would be the prime target for action. 

“We were in wait and see situation as we believed that the ban implementation would come gradually. But the manufacturers ignored to follow our decision,” said Gurung, adding, “Any manufacturer found producing plastic carry bags than the legal limit would be liable to serious action from next week.” 

As for now, ministry has strengthened its monitoring team every day and confiscated tons of plastics sold illegally along with taking actions against those found buying or selling plastic bags. 

Published: 23-08-2015 09:05

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