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Perilous plastic

By | Insha Shirazi

Jammu & Kashmir generates the eighth-highest amount of plastic garbage per person among India’s states and union territories, according to the annual report 2019–20 on the implementation of plastic waste management legislation. Jammu and Kashmir’s monthly progress report for January 2021 states that 6200 MT of plastic garbage is produced there on average each month. 

Umar Wani, a landscape photographer from Srinagar, Jammu and Kashmir said, “The issue of single-use plastic in Kashmir is a nuisance. It creates a lot of environmental issues and destroys the serenity of our homeland.  As a photographer, one must find a good location for their shot. However, what we notice everywhere is trash. This plastic garbage eliminates the tranquilly in the setting of our pictures which prevents us from adequately capturing it.”

“The use of polythene bags is a very serious issue and we need to address it right away. As the saying goes, ‘Charity begins at home’ so we must take care of our planet and start making changes from our home,” he continued.

Environmentally delicate regions like Kashmir demand prompt action to reduce plastic trash. Instead of focusing on climate change, it is now more difficult and crucial to address plastic pollution in Kashmir. Between 500 billion and 1 trillion plastic bags are used worldwide each year. The chemicals used in the production of polythene bags are not food grade, and when they leach out into the food, they pollute it and cause diseases including cancer, brain tissue degeneration, heart enlargement, and other diseases.

 According to researchers, the untreated wastewater has ruined the iconic lake of Kashmir known as the Dal Lake and due to houseboats, the lakes receives 25 tones of inorganic nitrogen fertilizer and 18.2 tones of phosphorous fertilizer from 15 major drains. Since previous years, the water’s color has changed from bluish green to hazel, which has a negative impact on the lake’s view and allure.

The primary issue in the present day is plastic trash. The general term “plastic” refers to a variety of synthetic or semi-synthetic organic amorphous solid materials made from fossil fuels like oil and natural gas. We use these bags without considering the environmental impact that a using polythene bag has on the environment. We see polythene bags everywhere in the market, from local shopkeepers to supermarkets in Kashmir. Plastic bags have a large negative impact on the ecosystem because it is a non-degradable, which reduces soil fertility and causes harmful compounds to leach into the ground when they do. Due to the polythene bags’ inability to disintegrate, they are burned, releasing dangerous chemical elements into the atmosphere and causing air pollution.

The Ministry of Environment, Forestry, and Climate Change issued on August 12, 2021, pursuant to which the manufacturing, importation, stocking, and use of single-use plastic shall be outlawed nationwide as of July 1, 2022.” Incharge head, Jammu and Kashmir Pollution Control Committee (Kashmir) Dr. Sabeena sultan said.

 “The amendment was also issued on February 16th, 2022, banning things like packing films surrounding cigarette packets, PVC banners, candy sticks, plates, and mugs,” she added. 

The single-use plastic weekly data that we captured in a week, from August 28 to September 3, 2022, is as follows: The amount of single-use plastic we seized was 45.65 kg, whereas the amount of polythene we seized was 46.80 kg. If any shopkeeper, local vendor, or other person is found to be using single-use plastic, there will be a penalty charge also. “The amount of plastic garbage in Kashmir has decreased.  In a 2021 annual report, it was noted that 31,373.7560 metric tons were produced annually, but in 2022, just 18, 2391 metric tons were produced”.she added.

An NGO called the Indian Pollution Control Association organizes numerous efforts to reduce single-use plastic and many other programs organized in schools, colleges, and universities regarding the ban on polythene bags. 

Adil Bhat, a local shopkeeper from Hawal area of Srinagar, Jammu and Kashmir while talking about the usage of single-use plastic said, “I object to the use of plastic bags. I am concerned about the environment, but we are forced to use polythene bags since they are so inexpensive to purchase. On the other hand, paper or jute bags are much more expensive and may result in a financial loss. It is a request that the government should proceed toward producing paper bags at a very low cost so that they can be used by all local vendors.”