Goa plans to control plastic menace by tourists

| 23 September 2000 23:01 IST

Should plastic carry bags and bottles be banned in totality ? It's a heated issue in Goa today with tourism season approaching fast.

Whether it is the common Goan citizen, the government official or the hard-hit plastic bag manufacturer, all of them agree on one point - firm steps are required to be taken against littering of plastic bags and bottles all around.

It is a major menace in the tourist state today, especially along the whole coastal belt, thanks to the tourists - Indian or foreign - for throwing away the plastic and adding their 'valuable share' to the choking of drains and filth all around.

"Plastic is an eco-friendly material. The real problem is littering", claims Parag Joshi, former president of the Goa Small Scale Industries Association and a plastic manufacturer himself. But there is hardly anybody who agrees with his viewpoint.

"We are not against long-lasting plastic and the one which could be recycled. But the thin recycled bags have to be banned", demands Averthanus D'Souza, president of the Goa Environment Federation, who has led the anti-plastic movement in the state.

The government, since 15 August, has also started seizing all the recycled coloured carry bags which are having thickness below 20 microns. But the collectorates are handicapped with the lack of micrometers to count the gauge while shopkeepers complain that their bags above 20 microns are also being seized.

"Microns do not matter much in terms of environmental hazard any carry bag creates. But the bag above 20 microns is costly, which no shopkeeper can afford to give free of cost", explains Anil Parulekar, member secretary of the Goa Pollution Control Board, the nodal agency which is presently monitoring the campaign.

Though the Recycled Plastic Manufacture and Usage Rules, 1999 do not contain any penal provision, the public response however has been tremendous, creating confidence among the authorities that education on any issue of health hazard can be effective in a small and educated state like Goa.

While most of the shopkeepers have gone back to the old system of wrapping up goods in paper bags or newspapers, people are slowly getting habituated to going to the market with cloth bags. Besides a few NGOs, even school students have come forward to take up a promotion campaign for the use of paper or cloth bags.

In fact a seminar organised by the Goa Union of Journalists recently on the issue has even succeeded in bringing the plastic manufacturers and NGOs together to work hand in hand to stop menace of plastic littering, though they sharply differ on the use of plastic carry bags or bottles.

"Rather than spending money on anti-plastic campaign, the authorities should gear up its machinery for effective waste management and disposal of plastic", opines Joshi. Unfortunately, Goa does not have a single unit which recycles the plastic while the plastic manufacturers are not prepared to take it up as a social responsibility.

The GEF is thus planning to take up a collection drive of littered plastic bags and bottles throughout the coastal belt and store it temporarily in a place, till they arrange a factory outside the state for recycling. They are even being promised grants and the state machinery like vehicles and workers.

With the help of the Travel and Tourism Association of Goa and the NGOs, the authorities are also planning to put up posters and boards at the air ports, hotels, restaurants and the beach shacks, appealing to the tourists to use waste bins for the plastic bags and bottles - after crushing it.

"We are hopeful that the educated tourists coming to Goa from all parts of the world would co-operate with us in keeping our state clean and healthy", states Dr N P S Varde, director of the science and technology department.

"And there is a good news", says GEF head D'Souza, "the Pepsi has assured us that only paper glasses would be used at its fountain points while minimising the use of plastic bottles." A similar response from Coca Cola however is still awaited.

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