Polythene is a blessing if used judiciously and carefully. But when handled carelessly it turns into an enormous environmental menace which will remain shooting its ill effects for pretty long time. Governments all over the world have devised laws and regulations to control the problems that come with the use of polythene and its products. They have also evolved with technology to reduce its ill effects. But in the state of Jammu and Kashmir the drastic pollution caused by the littering of polythene is taking the shape of an environmental disaster. Everywhere heaps and mounds of garbage with maximum percentage of polythene is a common sight.
Government ban on the widespread use of polythene is limited to announcements and not beyond it. Tons of polythene bags are sold in the market everyday in every nook and corner of the state except in Ladakh region, and the government is but a mute spectator to this menacing degradation of the state’s environment. And interestingly, while Srinagar Municipal Corporation (SMC) bosses miss no opportunity of cheap publicity, their silence of the inability to impose ban on polythene is meaningful. Indeed when top officials confess that there are quite a few “corrupt people” in the SMC and that action will be taken against them, they must also have courage to tell people how corruption in the SMC and for that matter also in the State Pollution Control Board (SPCB) is actually responsible for the open sale and use of polythene bags in the city and elsewhere.
The large-scale use of this non-biodegradable matter has its ill effects on water and soil with a large chunk of cultivable land turning into unproductive one. Rice fields and orchards are experiencing the obnoxious effects of polythene in the rural areas as most of the fungicides, pesticides and insecticides are packed in bags made of this monster material, which left unattended, with the passage of time, enters beneath the productive layer of the earth and starts oozing its foul effects. And what pains more is the insensitivity of the government which knows it all but is playing a negative role in curbing its use or misuse. And when government shows apathetic attitude towards a sensitive matter like this, people have to think of devising their own ways and means to tackle the problem. They have to say good bye to the use of polythene by boycotting it. Otherwise it will leave them in ruins.
Polythene is non-biodegradable matter and therefore one can easily assume its harmful impact on the environment. And if the consumption remains same as it is now for a few more years, one can only imagine what will be its environmental consequences. People in Kashmir Valley can learn some lessons from their Ladakhi counterparts in this regard, who have given up the use of polythene completely at their own. Though they are educationally far behind than the rest of the inhabitants of the state, but they took an initiative some years back to drag out the menace from the cold deserts of the mountainous region. Today one feels proud of the stout people of Ladakh who not only knew the disastrous effects of polythene but refused to use it by boycotting its purchase to ensure that the environment around them is not polluted so much so that they will have to seek for alternatives not only to their fields but to their places of habitation. If the same is repeated in whole of the state, the stinking mounds of polythene will pave way for biodegradable packaging material which will increase the fertility of the soil instead. And when that day arrives, people will find their aesthetic sense touching to the centre of perfection and whole of the state will turn into a living paradise, environmentally indeed. As for the government, the concerned agencies vested with the responsibility of safeguarding the environment must be taken to task. But it the SPCB or the local municipalities, they need to be asked why are they not seriously implementing the ban on this obnoxious substance. But this won’t happen unless and until all those who have a vested interest in polythene trade, be they traders of their mentors in the political and bureaucratic echelons, are also educated about their responsibilities towards the state and its environment.