CHENNAI: On World Environment Day, the Tamil Nadu government announced, disposable plastics will be banned from next year, but it seems like a hard path to success for the plastic-dependent society.
The Tamil Nadu government requires time to work out the modalities of implementing the provisions of the Tamil Nadu Plastic Articles (Prohibition of Sale, Storage, Transport and Use) Bill 2002 since the manufacturers of plastics have to be given time to shift to more acceptable substitutes. Besides, the government has realised the need to increase public awareness about the adverse impact of plastics before going ahead with the ban.”
Sixteen years ago, this was the reason spelt out by the late Chief Minister, J Jayalalithaa, when Opposition parties in the Assembly on May 8, 2002, demanded that the Bill be referred to the select committee of the Assembly. The Bill was introduced only the previous day amidst objections. Later, the Bill was withdrawn on January 31, 2003.
But after one and half decades, when the use of plastics has increased manifold and many other States in the country are taking steps to ban the use of plastic in stages, Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Edappadi K Palaniswami on Tuesday announced that the throwaway non-biodegradable plastics would be banned from January 1, 2019.
Observing that the government had a responsibility towards the workers in the plastics industry who would be affected by the legislation, Jayalalithaa said the government had realised that the ban should be implemented in stages - first in Corporations, then in the municipalities and then all over the State - for which it required time.
When P Mohan, the then Minister for Forests and Environment, introduced the above Bill, Jayalalithaa made a strong case for banning plastics. Jayalalithaa recalled that on her way to Nilgiris, she literally cried when she saw plastic articles strewn everywhere in the hill resort.
In 2002, when the government made the ban attempt, experts said the ban should be comprehensive and specific. For example, one of the worst kinds of plastic is polyvinyl chloride (PVC), a toxic material used for making pipes etc. For example, the plastic pots used by women are actually unfit for storing drinking water because of the presence of cadmium, mercury and lead. So, the experts said a clear-cut alternative to different types of plastic should be found before taking the first step.
Rightly recalling the short life of the 2002 Bill, PMK founder S Ramadoss said, “At least this time, the government should be firm in its move to ban throwaway plastics. It should not be a repeat of 2002.”
G Shankaran, president, Tamil Nadu-Pondy Plastic Association, took a strong exception to the announcement of the CM. “First of all, the government should spell out the alternative for plastic in day-to-day life before banning it. Otherwise, the government’s attempt will be a failure.”
He said Jayalalithaa took a similar decision and withdrew it the next day and till her death, she put that idea on the back-burner because she knew it was impractical. Now, using Jayalalithaa’s name, the CM is announcing a ban.
“The plastic industry gives a GST of around `3,000 crores to the State government per year. This industry gives direct employment to 2 lakh people who are poor and downtrodden and mostly women,” he added.