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Plastic ban in Uttarakhand (2nd February 2016) :The Uttarakhand government has banned plastic across the state with effect from Monday following the National Green Tribunal (NGT) order and directed all the  local bodies to enforce it effectively, urban development secretary said on Monday. Penalty of Rs. 5000/- will be slapped on violator. However, the government would make a fresh appeal to the NGT for a relaxation in view of the ongoing Ardh Kumbh fair in Haridwar, has said.

The NGT in December 2015 had directed the state government to ensure a complete ban on plastic of any kind – including carry bags, plastic plates, glasses, spoons and allied items – in all the cities falling along the Ganga and its tributaries from February 1, 2016. The NGT had also prohibited procurement, storing and sale of the said items.

However, some officials said that enforcing a total ban could be a challenge for the local bodies due to high tourist influx during the Ardh Kumbh fair and shortage of staff elsewhere. Echoing the same concern, Haridwar municipal commissioner said, “The average floating population (visitors such as tourists and pilgrims) of the city is even higher than that of the city’s population.” However, five teams had been constituted to exclusively monitor the ban in the city.

The Dehradun Municipal Corporation had banned the use of lightweight polythene bags (of thickness below 40 microns) in July 2014. But after initial rounds of prompt action, the drive lost its steam eventually, largely due to “a lack of manpower”, said municipal commissioner.

The chairperson of Uttarakashi municipality – located around 200 km away from Dehradun on the way to Gangotri – said that the municipality had “only four supervising heads” for monitoring of plastic ban for a population around 18,000.

As per the additional commissioner of Garhwal, “It might take some time to (meet the objective), but the need can indeed be implemented successfully if public representative and officials take it seriously.” Experts, however, said that an effective implementation of the plastic ban would not be possible unless efforts were made to supply “alternate options” to the public in the first place. “For a start, the government can make it mandatory for all schools to undertake preparation of paper or cloth bags as a part of socially useful productive work classes,” said Negi, president, Making A Difference By Being The Different (MAD). The social group has already prepared and distributed around 4,000 paper bags among Doon locals so far.