Ban in place, penalty to come into force from September 15

Town panchayats around Tambaram will crack down on the use of plastic bags less than 40 microns thick and will fine anyone — residents or traders — found using them, from September 15.

This is the beginning of a series of attempts initiated by the department of municipal administration and water supply, especially the directorate of town panchayats, ever since the Central Government’s notification on Plastic Waste (Management and Handling Rules) 2011 was received.

“We have been trying to make this a reality since several months. The Centre’s notification was a huge boost. The menace of plastic waste has grown and spread to town panchayats too,” said Kalaivani Kamaraj, chairperson of Tiruneermalai town panchayat near Tambaram. The other town panchayats are Kunrathur, Mangadu, Perungalathur, Peerkankaranai, Sembakkam, Chitlapakkam and Madambakkam.

Pallikaranai, Meenambakkam, Perungudi and Sholinganallur town panchayats were merged with the Chennai Corporation last year. Ms. Kamaraj said that earlier, town panchayats had joined hands with voluntary agencies, self-help groups and environmental protection bodies to create awareness among people on the ills of using plastic.

“The message has reached the people and we hope that there will be a significant improvement from September 15 onwards,” she said.

S. Vimala, chairperson of Madambakkam town panchayat, said that that street plays, door-to-door campaigns and distribution of pamphlets had been carried out to ensure that every resident and trader was aware of the ban on use of plastic below the thickness of 40 microns. “People are willing to cooperate, but the interest has to be sustained,” she said.

From September 15, a first-time penalty of Rs. 100 would be levied on violators and repeated offenders would be fined as high as Rs. 500, Ms. Vimala said. While thicker bags available at supermarkets and departmental stores for a nominal ‘fee’ were used more than once, plastic bags and sheets below the thickness of 40 microns found their way into water channels, stormwater drains, vacant and open spaces, temple tanks and lakes, she said.

Though residents had reacted positively to the proposed penalty for violating the rule, punitive measures would act as a further deterrent and prevent people from using thin plastic below 40 microns, said experts. School children were targeted as instruments of spreading awareness among friends and family.

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