CHENNAI: Nearly three months after the Tamil Nadu government implemented with much fanfare the ban on single use plastic and polythene bags on January 1, polythene bags are back in the city markets, with street vendors and storekeepers in the city rampantly using them.
When Express visited one of the busiest markets in T Nagar on Tuesday, it found that from vegetable sellers to restaurants, from flower vendors to multi-storey garment shops, all were offering polythene bags happily to their customers in blatant violation of the ban order. The storekeepers and even the people were seen using polythene bags without any fear.
When asked, the traders cited different reasons for using the banned plastic bags. While some blamed lack of affordable alternatives, some others blamed the lackadaisical attitude of the Corporation officials in conducting regular raids. “Before implementing the ban, the authorities took no measures to ensure availability of cheap eco-friendly alternatives to polythene bags. We are using the banned plastics bags as they are still easily available in markets and also because customers are not bringing their own bags,” said Ganesan, a fruit vendor at T Nagar.
“No official comes for checking at our store. Initially, we spent a lot on eco-friendly biodegradable plastic bags out of fear, but now we have switched back to polythene bags as it is cheap also,” said manager of a garment shop.
Some even pointed out that they have old stocks of plastic bags left so they are using them to exhaust the stock. “Nearly 70 to 80 per cent of the restaurants and hotels have started using eco-friendly bags for takeaways. Only a few of those who have bulk stocks of polythene bags are still using it,” said M Ravi, president of Chennai Hotels’ Association.
According to environmentalists, one of the major reasons for rampant use of polythene despite the ban is lack of proper surveillance. “Initially after the ban, citizens and traders were wholeheartedly cooperating in implementation of the ban, but the authorities did not monitor the situation well. The surveillance was not carried out properly which posed a hurdle to an effective implementation of the ban,” said environmentalist Dharmesh Shah. “The authorities are not keeping constant vigil on units involved in selling and manufacturing polythene bags,” added Shah.
However, the officials of City Corporation have refuted the allegations. “On a regular basis, raids are being conducted in different parts of the city. Efforts are being made to ensure implementation of the ban order in letter and spirit,” said an official of the Corporation.
According to Corporation data, in January and February they seized around 110.42 tons of plastic by conducting raids. However, from March 1 to 15, in just 15 days the Corporation seized 113.63 tons of plastics.
While Corporation officials claim the seizure quantity has increased due to their sustained efforts, experts feel the rise in figure reflects that banned plastic is available in plenty in market. Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board (TNPCB) officials have also claimed that they are keeping a close watch on registered plastic manufacturing units but it seems there are some units which are doing it illegally.
Officials are hopeful that after implementation of proposed penalty it will ensure better implementation of plastic ban.