Monday, August 29, 2005 

Ban on Plastics in Mumbai

The Government of Maharashtra has banned plastic bags. Although it is a welcome step, there are practical difficulties and dubious intentions behind the ban.No doubt plastics have been the eco-lovers nightmare, and I vehemently criticise its overuse, but let me play the devil's advocate here. The Maharashtra government's decision is not influenced by a sudden love for nature, but has come as an excuse to wash it hands off its responsibilities of 26/7, the day Mumbai sank under water. The government is looking to blame Plastic bags for choking the drainage system.

While this is true a great extent, equally true is the fact that that Mumbai's waterlogging was caused by archaic drainage system, combined with the fact that illegal constructions had blocked many of the flood water outlets, resulting in total chaos. Rather than addressing these problems, the government lays the blame squarely on palstics and is trying to wriggle its way out of updating the drainage system, or getting rid of the illegal construction, which can be messy business, considering the fact that the inhabitants of these contruction form a large vote bank. In additon, the government hasn't provided the people with any alternatives to plastic bags.

Also, let us look at why these plastic bags are so popular. They are light, yet strong and can carry an amazing amount of weight vis-vis paper bags. They are inexpensive in comparision to cloth bags, and hence can be given out by the street hawkers with their goods, unlike cloth bags. Many a Mumbai celebrity have said that they don't use plastic bags, but hey, these aren't the real people. They dont have to buy their own groceries, or walk a mile just carrying their stuff. The just have to go about their business in AC cars. The rest of Mumbai can't afford such luxuries.

All said and done, I believe that plastic ban is a positive step (for certain negative reasons) and should be supported, but we should not let the Maharashtra government use it as an excuse for the problems of Mumbai, or divert our attention from them. Reducing the plastic menace should be a key priority but we should not wait for a tragedy like the flooding of Mumbai to awaken us.