PLASTIC is found everywhere. It has deeply impacted our lives. We see plastic as deep as 7 miles below the sea level or on top of the highest Himalayan peaks. Plastic production and consumption contribute greatly to greenhouse gas emissions. It devalues marine ecosystems, chokes the wetlands and wildlife and impacts our rivers. The effect that plastic is having on our world is difficult to fathom. It is estimated by the World Economic Forum and Ellen MacArthur Foundation that by 2050 there will be more plastic by weight than fish in our oceans by 2050 ? The world is facing a plastics crisis. Plastic pollution is found all around the globe. Plastics are negatively affecting people and the environment at each stage of their lifecycle – extraction of fossil fuel, production, manufacturing, use, recycling, and disposal. The impacts of plastic pollution is felt in a wide range of areas like biodiversity, climate & human health. Micro- and nanoplastics which enter into our human bodies directly or through food have harmful effects on health. The main route for microplastic entering into our bodies is ingestion, followed by inhalation and dermal (skin) exposure. Although there is no scientific certainty of the amount of plastics humans ingest, estimation guesses around 0.1-5 gram per week. Not only are our cities and towns impacted by plastic pollution but even the villages are impacted as well. This is more dangerous in villages located in Himalayan region which includes Jammu & Kashmir as well.
Plastic Pollution in Jammu & Kashmir
The plastic in Jammu & Kashmir is not only impacting our mountains , forests and rivers but this is choking our drainage system as well which leads to flooding in urban areas like Srinagar and other towns. In villages also there is water logging as plastic has choked our rural areas. To address plastic waste in rural areas the J&K Govt launched Swachh Bharat Mission Gramin’s phase II programme but this programme is not picking up and we hardly see any district or block that can be a role model for other places in J&K.
When the Government launched a waste management programme for rural areas of J&K last year , the Govt began supplying steel trash bins to Block Development Officers (BDOs) who further provided the same to people at panchayat level. On November 21st I wrote a piece titled “A Tale of Forlorn Garbage Bins” .
I had made a prediction that these trash bins would be of no use as there was no service available to clear the trash bins or collect waste at household level . It has been more than 7 months since these trash bins have been installed , but they are of no use at all ? The reason is lack of service to collect the waste.
Government in October 2021 constituted an Apex Committee for implementation of Swachh Bharat Mission Gramin (SBM-G) phase II in J&K. The eight member committee is headed by the Chief Secretary. Other members of the committee include Administrative Secretaries of Finance, Health, Rural Development , Information and Jal Shakti. Experts in the field of sanitation,hydrology,IEC,HRD, Media, NGOs shall also be the members of this high level committee. This apex committee which was constituted vide Govt order No: 1116-JK(GAD) of 2021 Dated: 21.10.2021 will be advising the Mission Directorate of SBM – Gramin J&K (Directorate of Rural Sanitation).Till date people are not aware of the number of meetings this committee organised and what kind of advises it gave to Mission Director SBM Gramin J&K.
SBM Gramin guidelines makes it mandatory for the Government to have at least one Solid Liquid Waste Management (SLWM) Consultant at the State level and one SLWM Consultant in each district to guide the preparations of the solid and liquid waste management projects for each Gram Panchayat (GP). People in rural areas haven’t seen such projects prepared.
Even the District Development Council Members and Chairpersons are not aware of all this. Last year, the Chairman DDC Budgam Nazir Ahmad Khan took up this issue with Ms Vini Mahajan, Secretary Ministry of Drinking Water & Sanitation. He wrote a detailed letter to her complaining that as Chairman Zila Swach Bharat Mission Gramin he has no information at all about what kind of projects are being taken up in Budgam. The Secretary in fact responded back but on the ground there was no action.
The unscientific plastic waste management is not a challenge in urban areas but this is an uphill task for rural areas of Jammu & Kashmir as well.
Challenges of Plastic Pollution
According to the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), humans produce more than 430 million tonnes of plastic annually. In addition to it 46% plastic waste is landfilled, while 22% is mismanaged and littered here and there. UNEP also adds that as per global estimates, around 75 to 199 million tonnes of plastic is currently found in our oceans and it is estimated that 1,000 rivers are accountable for nearly 80% of global annual riverine plastic emissions into the ocean, which range between 0.8 and 2.7 million tonnes per year. According to Plastics, The Potential and Possibilities report prepared in association with the Indian Institute of Science (IISc) and Praxis Global Alliance, India generates around 3.4 million tonnes (MT) of plastic waste annually and only 30% of it is recycled. In Jammu & Kashmir the situation is worse. The plastic waste produced in tourist places like Gulmarg , Pahalgam,Yusmarg, Sonamarg or Doodhpathri is landfilled inside forests.Large amounts of it is thrown in local streams as well which is dangerous.
LG Manoj Sinha’s Speech
Lieutenant Governor Manoj Sinha while addressing the World Environment Day event in Srinagar today reiterated the commitment of his administration to protect the environment and natural resources and sustainable, inclusive development. He was speaking on occasion of the programme organised by the Department of Forest, Ecology and Environment in Srinagar. Manoj Sinha in his speech said:
“Humanity is facing grave challenges of plastic pollution today. Our resolution on this year’s environment day is to ‘Beat Plastic Pollution’. It is now the responsibility of the entire society to accomplish this resolution through the spirit of Jan Bhagidari.
As LG Manoj Sinha in his address on World Environment Day today said that the world cannot exist without nature and people have to accelerate their actions and bring behavioural changes in their lifestyles, I would appreciate that the Government must work towards hand holding people towards achieving it. LG Sinha must seek updates from the Rural Development Department especially about the progress of Swachh Bharat Mission Gramin Phase II wherein rural waste management programme has to be undertaken. He must also call for a review meeting of SBM urban as well and make sure all the ULBs in J&K have a scientific waste management system in place. If our Govt is really serious about seeing our forests, rivers and lakes, mountains, grasslands, farms and urban landscapes free from plastic pollution, they must seriously work on bringing sustainable behavioural change among people to address waste management issues especially to counter plastic pollution.