The government's decision to impose a complete ban on the production, import, sale, distribution, and use of plastic bags with thickness of less than 40 microns has finally come into effect, with publication of a notice in the Nepal Gazette.

According to the notice published by the Ministry of Forests and Environment on September 15, this provision shall be applicable throughout the country in line with Section 15 of the Environment Protection Act-2019.

"The Government of Nepal may, by a notification in the Nepal Gazette, determine necessary standards for the mitigation or doing away with the impacts of pollution from any motor vehicle, device, equipment, industrial enterprise, hotel, restaurant or other place or goods or activity or effects from the disposal or emission of any hazardous substance," the Section reads. The budget speech for the fiscal 2021-22 had stipulated a provision for imposing ban on plastic bags which don't meet the prescribed standard. As per the act, if a person or organisation commits any act contrary to the act or rules framed under the act, the offender may be punished with a fine up to Rs 300,000.

This is not the first time the government has announced the ban on plastic bags. The government's earlier ban on plastic bags in the Kathmandu valley was a complete failure. Although no preparation has been made in this regard learning lesson from the valley, the government decided to impose a nationwide ban on plastic bags through the budget for fiscal year 2016- 2017. That ban did not last for long due to poor monitoring and regulation. The government failed to curb the use, production, sale and import plastic bags after the entrepreneurs defied the order and continued to producing the materials.

The failure to implement the previous ban is also blamed on 2017 earthquakes.

During post-quake situation, the ban was virtually neglected as the government diverted its focus on search, rescue, and relief operation.

According to Nepal Plastic Manufacturers' Association, 4.7 million to 4.8 million pieces of plastic bags are used on a daily basis in Kathmandu itself. Around 200 existing plastic bag factories are operating in the country.

According to the MoFE, the ban is aimed at mitigating the negative effects of plastic and polypropylene bags on human health, environment, and urban beauty.

Plastic bag manufacturers would be encouraged to switch to other environment-friendly products. It said that environmentalists and the authorities concerned would intensify awareness-raising campaigns through various media, besides initiating legal action against persons, vendors, retailers and wholesalers guilty of importing, selling, distributing and using plastic bags that do not meet the government-prescribed standards.

A version of this article appears in the print on September 18 2021, of The Himalayan Times.