Maharashtra government defends plastic ban by citing deaths of whale, cows

Mumbai: The Environment Department of Maharashtra government on Wednesday defended its decision to ‘ban’ the use or sale of plastic by citing deaths of a whale and a cow. The government also highlighted the impact of plastic on the environment and also on human beings as well as animals.

The government defended its decision by filing an affidavit before a division bench of Justice Abhay Oka and Justice Riyaz Chagla, which is seized of a batch of petitions challenging the ban on plastic. The petitions filed by associations of plastic and thermocol manufacturers contend that the government has exceeded its jurisdiction in imposing the ban. The petitions also claimed that the ban is in contravention of provisions of Environment Protection Act and the Food Safety and Standard Act.

Countering the claims of manufacturers, the government in its affidavit said, “The recent death of a whale near the Mumbai seashore was because of plastic, which was revealed in its autopsy report. Also there have been instances wherein nearly 35 kg of plastic was found in the stomach of dead cows. The use of plastic carry bags, PET bottles, plastic cups, spoons, film sheets etcetera and thermocol items is causing serious environmental hazards and affecting the health of human beings and animals. Therefore, to prevent the recurrence of such problems, the government issued the notification in view of alarming material showing harmful effect of plastic on the environment.” The government further claimed that several rivers and water-bodies in Mumbai, including Mithi river, are the most severe casualties of plastic waste.

“In Maharashtra, nearly 1200 metric tonnes of plastic waste is generated daily and its disposal is not taking place in a scientific manner. Also, above 1.25 crore of PET bottles are used by citizens, which do not get recycled. Plastic bags obstruct streams of all types of waters, resulting in clogging of drains and thereby give rise to health issues,” the affidavit states.

It further adds, “Plastic bags and other products made of plastic are not bio-degradable. Plastic waste is disrupting the natural balance of the ecosystem causing various environmental problems and harm to flora and fauna, and also to biodiversity. The use of plastic bags has not only endangered the lives of humans and animals but also disturbed aquatic life.” Defending the ban, senior counsel EP Bharucha told the judges that contentions of all the petitioners are premature and they have the remedy to approach the eight-member committee and voice their grievances. Having heard the submissions, the judges posted the matter for further hearing and for the passing of orders on Thursday.

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