New Delhi: Ban on plastic bans? Not at Trade Fair!

NEW DELHI: The Delhi government had banned the use of plastic bags with great fanfare, but participants at the Trade Fair seem to be unaware of the existence of any such ban. Even on the second day of the fair at Pragati Maidan, several booths, including those of leading international apparel brands, were cheerfully handing over goods to buyers in plastic bags.

Embarrassingly for the government, the Trade Fair was supposed to be held up as a benchmark event where the ban would be implemented in totality. With about 7,000 stalls, the fair attracts some 2 million visitors in a span of about a fortnight. Delhi government has set up stalls that are selling jute and paper bags at reasonable rates, not only to promote these bags but also to provide an alternative to customers who were not supposed to be given plastic bags.

However, many stall owners and customers didn’t seem to be particularly concerned about the environment. Shoppers who were walking around with plastic bags in hand casually transferred the blame to the stall owners. "The onus for giving out jute or cloth bags rested with the stall owners. Once we have shopped and they give out plastic bags, we can’t refuse since we ourselves are not carrying other bags," said Sushil Gujral, a businessman. When TOI spoke to stall owners, they declined to comment, or simply shrugged it off.

Furious India Trade Promotion Organisation (ITPO) officials said that from Monday, they would take strict action against anyone found violating the ban. "It was made clear to all participants that plastic bags would not be permitted, not just verbally but in the official regulations as well. The matter was discussed in all high level meetings subsequently so there is no scope for confusion. This seems to be a matter of outright violation and a lack of social responsibility. We will see how further we discourage the use of these bags," said an official. A few people have already been told off for smoking in the Pragati Maidan compound as the area is also now smoke-free.

Use and distribution of plastic bags was banned in Delhi on January 7 this year. The ban meant that almost everywhere in the city, with the exception of residential areas where biodegradable bags would be permitted, no plastic bags would be allowed. Those violating the ban face a fine of up to Rs 1 lakh or imprisonment of up to five years under the Environment Protection Act, 1986.

A shopkeeper was recently fined Rs 15,000 for violating the ban, and more than 40 cases are pending in court even as the environment department is actively considering other ways of bringing about stricter enforcement. But if the Trade Fair is any indicator, it will be a long time before the ban really catches on.

From TimesofIndia

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