Use of carry bags goes on unchecked

HYDERABAD, APRIL 29. Although it is nearly two years since the Central Government banned plastic carry bags of below 20 micron thickness, people, both traders and commoners, continue to use them since there is not enough awareness about the damage they cause to the environment. Also, there is laxity on the part of the officials in taking deterrent action.

Defiance of the ban imposed by the Centre in 1999 followed up with a Government Order last month by the State will invite fines. While the firm manufacturing such bags would have to shell out amounts ranging from Rs.25,000 to Rs.50,000, sellers of large quantities would have to become poorer by Rs.2,500 to Rs.5,000. The user can get away with a lighter penalty of Rs.250 to Rs.500 per each offence of littering public places.

According to the Society for Preservation of Environment and Quality of Life (SPEQL), the bags cause more harm when they are strewn around. The cancer-causing agents, carcinogens, are generated during chemical reactions taking place in plastic material. If they enter the body through food items packed in non-food grade plastic bags, the foodstuffs could be contaminated.

The bags are still being used, mostly by people and traders who are not so well informed. The fact that not much is being done by the member-secretary of the AP Pollution Control Board, the enforcement authority, and the commissioner of a corporation or a municipality, has only made the people bolder.

The board is to take up, from the next academic year, an awareness campaign as part of the Children's Environmental Science Congress, under which about 100 schools are being run in each district in the State. Similar programme is to be launched under the National Green Army, a programme of the Government of India for which the board is the nodal agency. Already Sukuki Exnora, an NGO, is conducting street plays by children, where cloth and paper bags are distributed free.

Thankfully, there is awareness at least among some wholesalers of Begum Bazar, like Mohd. Omer of Supreme Plastics. He stopped dealing in the banned bags, besides is not selling the black variety, since he does not want get into a tiff with the Andhra Pradesh Pollution Control Board. Mr. Omar told The Hindu that he is aware of the consequences after seeing press reports.

Although he admits that there have been official checks, more frequent raids would have a telling effect on both traders and people. He suggests that due publicity should be given to such raids and fines collected from violators of the ban.

There is more awareness against the use of the banned bags among traders in central areas like Koti. Even a meat vendor like Mr. Pappu of Kutbiguda is not giving them to customers. Why should I use them knowing pretty well that I would be fined, he asks.

Similarly, Mr. Pratap Choudhary of Om Agencies, wholesale dealers in gift novelties, in Esamia Bazar, and Mr. Bhagyawan Meru of Mamata Book Exhibition, Koti, are not using the carry bags. "We have already switched over to newspaper, despite the time we take in packing the goods with thread."

Recently, Mr.Arvind M.Mehta, President, All-India Plastic Manufacturers' Association, had appealed to the Pollution Control Board not to impose the ban, but take up a campaign to create awareness against the littering of such bags.

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