The Covid-19 pandemic has taken up most of the state government’s attention since March 2020, resulting in a reversal of its efforts to phase out single-use plastic. With no inspection and action, markets across Mumbai are yet again flooded with the banned material.
However, after getting a grip on the pandemic situation, the BMC has now directed all its ward offices to not just resume but intensify its drive against plastic. The BMC has also been putting a lot of effort into segregating face masks, shields, protective gear and other hazardous waste that finds its way into regular piles of garbage, enhancing the risk of spreading the virus.
Meanwhile, piling up of plastic disposables has added to the strain on the civic solid waste management (SWM) department which had to deal with the single-use plastic waste discarded on roads and in drains or finding its way into landfills. In June 2018, after the ban came into effect in Mumbai, the civic body formed a 249- member plastic ban vigilance squad by requisition of staff from other departments.
License inspectors from various sections and officials from the removal of encroachment department were pooled into the vigilance squad that went to markets raiding shops and establishments, seizing banned material and collecting fines. Besides, the BMC placed 4X5 feet boxes painted in black as plastic collection boxes/counters at 25 different public places in 24 administrative wards and one each in all 92 municipal markets across the city.
However, the civic body’s movement had already petered out by the end of 2019, even before the pandemic struck. A BMC official said, “Ever since March 2020, Covid has remained our priority. There has been a whole campaign since 2018, and even in 2020, against banned plastic usage. We had made great efforts and seized a huge amount of banned material.
However, since last year, our priority has changed.” The official said the situation has further led to humongous use of single-use plastic and the civic body is up against a challenge. “However, we are now reviving the ban once again, so people using banned plastic will be penalised,” the official said.
Rules and Penalty
As per section 9 of the Maharashtra Non Biodegradable Garbage (Control) Act, 2006, offenders are fined up to Rs 5000 for the first time, and Rs 10,000 for the second offence.
For subsequent offences, there is a jail term of up to three months and a fine of Rs 25,000. In June 2018 alone, the civic body had collected 1.42 lakh kg of banned plastic from across the city.
A year after the ban, on June 26, 2019, the civic body issued a statement revealing that its vigilance squads managed to collect Rs 3.47 crore as fine from offenders, besides lodging 489 FIRs against them in the span of one year.
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