Former Nilgiris Collector Supriya Sahu on implementing the plastic ban in the hill station
By the year 2000, plastic had spread its tentacles even to the pristine Nilgiris. It clogged the drains, entered the food tracts of animals and turned a lush green hill station into one specked with bags, cups and plates left behind by locals and irresponsible tourists.
Then came Collector Supriya Sahu. She brought a ban on plastics in the Nilgiris. And, contrary to many doubts people expressed, it worked. And, continues to work.
Surpriya, now director, Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, recalls how and why the ban was successful. “Our experiment worked because we turned it into a shared agenda. The residents were equal stakeholders in the process of making the hill station plastic-free. Thanks to this, they understood that this short-term inconvenience would result in long-term benefits,” she says.
Also, since it was difficult to calculate the micron levels of each bag, they decided to break-up the operation into easily achievable parts. The first target was disposable items — cups, plates and plastic bags were banned. This was notified in the District Gazette. Simultaneously, using photographs and data, people across the hill station were sensitised to the need for avoiding plastic.
Soon, for better implementation, a deterrent was brought in — in the form of a fine. Also, people were exposed to alternative packing materials and those who manufactured them. They now had options.
This combination of factors is why a decade later, paper bags still rule in the Nilgiris, says Supriya.