KATHMANDU, July 26
The ban on plastic bags, which had turned virtually ineffective after the April 25 earthquake, will become more aggressive in Kathmandu Valley.
Officials had let the polythene bag dealers, retailers, vendors and users loose in the aftermath of the temblor despite the ban. The Department of Environment, the implementing agency of the ban, conceded it had pretended not to see the all-pervasive sale, distribution and use of polythene bags after the earthquake as the government was focused on search and rescue and relief operations in areas affected by the earthquake.
Three districts — Kathmandu, Lalitpur and Bhaktapur — were among the 14 most quake-affected districts.
“As normalcy gradually returns and relief operations are almost over, we have decided to resume the crackdown on the sale, distribution and use of plastic bags from tomorrow. The ban has never not been lifted. We will give people a sense that a more aggressive ban is in place,” Suroj Pokhrel, Director General at DoE said.
He informed that environment inspectors will give continuity to awareness-raising campaign through media, postering and pamphleteering,g besides initiating legal action against persons, vendors, retailers and wholesalers who are guilty of importing, selling, distributing and using plastic bags that do not meet the standards prescribed by the government.
The Ministry of Science, Technology and Environment had imposed the ban on plastic bags below 40 microns with effect from April 14, as part of efforts to declare the Valley a plastic-free zone, saying it was spoiling the beauty of the city and causing adverse impacts on the environment. According to DoE, eight teams of environment inspectors, in association with police, civil society and representatives from local bodies will monitor retail and wholesale shops to ensure that they comply with the ban.
Until before the quake, it had monitored 700 retail and wholesale shops and 28 departmental stores. During inspection and monitoring, it had seized more than 1,400 kg plastic bags that did not meet the standard and initiated action against eight wholesale shops, one departmental store and two plastic vendors.
According to Section 18 of the Environment Protection Act 1997, if a person or organisation commits any act contrary to this Act or rules framed under the Act, they may be punished with a fine up to Rs 50,000.
The DoE informed that as many as 18 teams will be mobilised in the Valley, including at transit points, to strongly enforce the ban.
Kathmandu Metropolitan City, Lalitpur Sub-metropolitan City and 19 other municipalities will also be carrying out monitoring in the respective areas.
A version of this article appears in print on July 27, 2015 of The Himalayan Times.