Govt fails to enforce plastic ban

Kathmandu, July 3

Although the authorities had imposed a ban on plastic bags below 40 microns effective from April 14, 2015, Valley denizens and shopkeepers continue using the easily available plastic bags.

Plastic manufacturers said they were compelled to manufacture plastic bags for their sustenance. “Plastic factories have been manufacturing plastic bags in spite of the ban to recoup their investments,” said Sharad Sharma, chair of Nepal Plastic Manufacturers’ Association, adding, “The government should have offered alternatives to plastic bags before imposing the ban.”

The association had strongly protested the government’s move to ban plastic bags and had demanded that the decision be revoked. According to the association, at least 140 out of 200 existing plastic bag factories had to be shut down after the ban.

“The daily demand for plastic bags in the Valley is around 7 metric tonnes, and despite the ban, the demands are being met through secretive production or imports,” Sharma said, adding, “We will stop production of plastic bags if the government offers us an alternative. Without an alternative, the government cannot enforce the ban.”

The Department of Environment on its part said that it was not its responsibility to offer alternatives. “Our responsibility is to monitor retailers, wholesalers and industries to ensure compliance with the ban and that we have done,” said Shankar Prasad Paudel, senior divisional chemist at the department.

“It is the responsibility of the industry ministry to offer an alternative to plastic manufacturers.” He accused the industry ministry of not supporting the ban and taking sides with the manufacturers.

Joint Secretary at the Ministry of Industries Rishi Koirala said the ministry was working to resolve the problem.

The Department of Environment has seized around 38 quintals of polythene bags in the course of monitoring so far. Until before the devastating earthquake last year, the department had inspected and monitored 702 retail and wholesale shops and 28 departmental stores, seized more than 1,400 kg plastic bags that did not meet the set standards, and initiated actions against eight wholesale shops, a departmental store, and two plastic vendors.

Post-quake, the ban was virtually neglected as the government diverted focus on search, rescue, and relief operations.

After the earthquake, the department has monitored 17 retailers and two plastic factories, seizing around 1,607 kg plastic bags, and imposing a fine of Rs 50,000 on a factory in Patan.

The department said 16 environment inspectors have been mobilised to strongly enforce the ban.Secretary of the MoEP Dr Bishwanath Oli said the monitoring on the ban on plastic bags would be made more effective by coordinating with other ministries.

At a press conference organised by the Ministry of Environment and Population on the occasion of International Plastic Bag Free Day today, secretary of the MoEP Bishwanath Oli said monitoring of the ban on plastic bags would be made more effective.