Renewing Our Fight Against Plastic
Like many countries and states, Nagaland’s fight against plastic waste too fell victim to Covid-19 after an impressive start. The state rose to the grave environmental and ecological challenges posed by rampant use of plastics by declaring its resolve on the occasion of ‘World Environment Day’ in 2018 to make the state plastic-free. Not many states in the country had taken such a stance then. The state government then put its words into action the following year by announcing a complete ban on single-use plastic items across the state. As expected, the move was met with criticism and cynicism during the initial phase but it picked up momentum with villages councils, civil society organisations and individuals joining the campaign with much enthusiasm. Events, including the famed Hornbill Festival were declared plastic-free. No doubt the pace of implementing the ban was slower than expected and many shop owners, especially in the state’s commercial hub Dimapur were reluctant to fall in line but what appeared like a distant dream turned into a possible mission because of active community involvement. That was before the Covid pandemic disrupted normal life across the globe in 2020. The crisis turned the tables as the world’s focus on recovering nature was completely diverted to taking measures to mitigate the spread of coronavirus. But now that the pandemic situation has improved, governments and communities should reignite the campaign to eliminate single-use plastics and with a renewed vigour to make up for the lost time while fighting the pandemic.
The government of Nagaland has once again taken up the campaign by issuing a fresh notification last month, informing the citizens about the total ban on single-use plastics in the entire state. It warned that individuals, institutions, business establishments, government departments, paramilitaries, etc. found breaching the ban will be penalised. This is a commendable move and a timely one as the pandemic situation has improved in the state. Unlike two years ago, the business community as well as the citizens are today aware of the environmental hazards associated with non-biodegradable materials. But with the prohibited items having returned to the market over the last two years, the district task forces that were constituted earlier to implement the ban, civil society organisations and general public should pick up the campaign once again from where they had left and put in concerted efforts to make Nagaland a plastic-free state. Another issue arising out of the staggering amount of single-use personal protective equipment (PPE) used by healthcare professionals at medical facilities during the ongoing pandemic should be looked into. While the importance of protective gears for healthcare workers is undisputed, alternatives like biodegradable gloves, and plastic-free mask will help fight plastic menace and reduce environmental damage.