Editorial – Ban Plastic Bags Now

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It is amazing that a single day of torrential rain yesterday and Imphal city was water-logged at many different areas. In another month or so, when the monsoon is upon the state in full gusto, it is imaginable what the scenario would be. It is not as if this is a new development. Each year, the problem has been progressively becoming worse, implying that the government ought to have begun its remedial actions much earlier. But as they say, it is better late than never. It must now jump into action without further delay. Let us also remind the government that the loss is not just in terms of inconveniences caused to the general public but also in very real revenue losses as well. Take just one instance. The black topping on the roads of Imphal are not flood proof. As it is, they are done so thin and flimsy that even without water logging, rainwater seeps through them to wet and muddy the ground underneath them, inducing the bitumen and mortar surface to begin crumbling. This being the case, water-logging would definitely mean a great deal more damages to Imphal roads, and this is there for everybody to witness every year. Literally, every water-logged monsoon in the past decade or so has meant the washing away of considerable length of roads in the Imphal area alone.
There are two areas immediately actionable. One is in the area of clearing the clogged drains all over Imphal. In some areas, especially in the suburbs, many of the elaborate traditional drainage systems known as khongban have disappeared, thanks to encroachments by residents. It is perhaps true that the traditional drainage system were too big and but much less efficient than the more scientifically conceived and constructed modern drains, and hence their replacement was necessary to reclaim some valuable land without losing out on drainage capacities. But the problem is, while the traditional khongban have disappeared, their modern replacements are still either missing or where they have been installed they are badly constructed and virtually worthless, with the end effect that drain water easily gets clogged.
The second area of immediate action is the issue of disposable plastic shopping bags. These non bio-degradable bags not only make for very ugly sights at every garbage dump, official ones as well unofficial, but they ultimately become a chief agent for clogging city drains. In fact, as many in Imphal would have noticed, they even clog the Nambul River in the stretch of the river that passes by the western side of the Paona Bazar. The government must without further delay re-impose the ban that once existed on the use of plastic bags. Many other cities and indeed states have done it, and amongst the most successful in the northeast region is Sikkim. Indeed plastic bags are going out of fashion everywhere, including in the national capital Delhi as well as other big cities of the country and Manipur must not remain unconcerned. Not only do they clog, but since they are not bio-degradable, they make for virtually unmanageable city wastes. Banning them would thus also amount to a valuable contribution towards promoting healthy world ecology.
There would definitely be businesses and small industries based on making these bags even in the state. They would definitely suffer, but for the greater common good, they would have to find some other means to continue their businesses. The government, in the name of fair play, can also step in and provide them with easy loans and consultancy to shift their business to making shopping bags with other approved easily bio-degradable materials. But it must not like the last time bow down to lobbies which want the continuance of this extremely destructive practice. It must also be remembered that each year tonnes of plastic wastes are ultimately washed into the Loktak Lake where most of the rivers of the state flow into, and this obviously would hasten the death of the lake. The shift in the ecology of the entire state in such a consequence is beyond imagination, but all the same a very real prospect now. Let the government then act now without further delay and ban plastic bags strictly without any compromises. Slap huge fines as deterrent on any shop offering them. We also wonder what all our brigades of environmental NGOs have been doing in the regards. Should not the state have heard of campaigns by them towards the same end long ago? But let bygones be bygones, and they too must now come to the fore to help in the initiative. The ordinary citizens too must be willing to bear the inconvenience for ultimately they will all be the beneficiaries.

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