Can Vijayawada go plastic-free?

The city wants to break free of single-use plastic and the Municipal Corporation promises a slew of measures to do so

The three water bodies traversing through the city—Eluru Canal, Bandar Canal and the Ryve’s Canal are choked with plastic for most part of the year as are the sewers and drains and cleaning them up is a “Herculean task,” says A. Md. Imtiaz, Krishna District Collector and Special Officer of the Vijayawada Municipal Corporation (VMC). A recent clean-up exercise in the canals, he says, produced thousands of tonnes of garbage with patches of plastic trash. There are about 18 big outfalls in city which empty into these canals, adding to the problem, he explains.

There is a proposed ban on single-use plastics and it has evoked mixed reactions. While most people are appreciative of the environmental considerations there are those who are wary about how the ban will impact their businesses. A series of meetings, held over a week, of the stakeholders who will be impacted or who will play a vital role in the ban is creating a buzz in VMC’s Town Hall. These include representatives of residential welfare associations, hospitals, shopping malls, super markets, hotels, function halls, NGOs and officials from government offices. Calling the special drive ‘Mana Vijayawada,’ , the civic authorities, with the support of the district administration, are evolving an effective enforcement mechanism besides working on plans to provide substitutes for plastic.

There will be awareness activities that will reiterate the harm plastics do to the environment and also educate people on more friendly alternatives. “We are promoting alternatives like jute, cloth and paper bags,” says V. Prasanna Venkatesh, Commissioner, VMC. He hopes the city will see less and less of single-use plastic carry bags, plates, disposable cups, straws, water pouches and milk covers.

Almost 300 self-help groups are being trained in making jute bags. And in order to appease the anxiety of those who may not be able to afford eco-friendly alternatives, Prasanna Venkatesh says they are mobilising CSR wings of the corporate companies and individual philanthropists. “We are urging them to sponsor free distribution of jute bags in slum habitations and lower income colonies,” he says.

Plastic bags have disappeared from rythu bazars, super markets, malls and most of the general stores. But small shop-keepers, meat shops and roadside kiosks still use them. “We have been asked not to use plastic carry bags. But unlike jute bags which are in short supply and run out of stock very frequently, plastic bags are readily available in the wholesale market of One Town area. The cost difference is a concern. A pack of 100 plastic carry bags come for Rs. 80 whereas I spend Rs. 120 for jute bags,” says L. Mallesh, who runs a chicken centre in Labbipet. Also Jute bags, he says, do not suit his business as they become damp and stained. He is however, confident that he can manage for some more time with plastic bags thanks to a couple of ‘friendly’ inspectors in the Municipal Corporation who warn him of impending ‘surprise checks’.

Hoteliers happy

Hotels that are another source of considerable plastic generation have also agreed to take active part in the awareness drives to educate small hotels, curry points and food vendors against use of plastic bags. “These are already off the counters in medium and big hotels who generally use food boxes for delivery. Hawkers and vendors will have to understand the importance of eliminating their use,” says Ravi Kumar Parvathaneni, president of Vijayawada Hotel Owners’ Association.

“Focus should be on food delivery outlets. Everybody should make use of the three weeks’ time given to consume the existing stocks of plastic products,” says K. Pattabhiram, former president of the Association.

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Printable version | Feb 24, 2020 4:07:29 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/sci-tech/energy-and-environment/can-vijayawada-go-plastic-free/article28861254.ece

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