Mass participation the key to plastic-free Himachal


By: Pankaj Sood

Solan (Feb 1): After enforcing a complete ban on polythene, Himachal Pradesh government is now all set to discourage use of every type of plastic across the state. To implement the ‘Sampurna Swachta Abhiyan’ in real sense and to attain the status of ‘NIRMAL STATE’ by March 2011, the government is planning to delegate penalty powers to the panchayt bodies. After this, panchayats would be empowered to penalize people using plastic. After getting the Prime Minister’s Award for ‘No-Polythene’ state, Himachal government has decided to go one step further to protect the environment and rich bio-diversity of the state.

Plastic is one of the most widely used substance and definitely a mass movement is required to educate the people about its impacts on our environment. Keeping in view this very important point, the Chief Minister has now decided to involve panchayats for monitoring the banned items in their respective areas. Recently in the joint oath taking ceremonies of newly-elected pradhans & up-pradhans, the CM had given clear signal that he was seriously planning to empower panchayats with penalty powers, which are now vested with administration and police officers only.

Government has already fixed March 31, 2011, as a date to achieve Nirmal Himachal mission. All government departments, various NGOs and now panchayats are being involved to get the desired results in a stipulated time. Ministers in the state cabinet are also directed to take this mission seriously. Taking directions, various departments have stopped purchasing plastic materials like flex banners, plastic posters etc. While residents of the state are made aware of the ban, educating thousands of tourists visiting state every year is a challenge too. Tourism department is soon coming up with a special program ‘Mindful Travel’ to educate people visiting the state.

After getting word of appreciation nationally and globally about his effort to make a Himachal a carbon-neutral state, Prem Kumar Dhumal knows that real challenge is to involve people at large. Polythene bags were banned more than a year ago and various government departments have collected & dumped 311 tonnes of plastic in this period. In addition, awareness about the polythene ban among the Himachalis has also reached on the desired levels, but without regular monitoring and provisions of alternate mediums this situation is not likely to continue for a long. Further, British ‘garbage girl’ had created a pro-environment spirit among the residents of some tourist places in the state and now if the government intends to achieve Nirmal State target, every citizen will have to be made aware of the environmental concerns.

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