Carrying a bag from home to the market when shopping has become a Herculean task for many, including educated individuals. And why should they? Single-use plastic bags continue to flood Goan markets, shops and retail stores despite the ban on them.
Reluctant to lose out on customers, vendors and vegetable sellers oblige the former by doling out plastic bags. Hiding behind the cloak of convenience, those too lazy to carry a cloth or reusable bag continue to write a plastic pollution narrative which is becoming harder to deal with.
Looking at the plastic strewn in Goa's fields, on the hillsides and on the beaches, it looks like we are a society that has lost its conscience and sense of priorities. The crisis is palpable, but, barring a handful, most have shunned their responsibility to act against this pressing issue, which is causing irreparable damage.
Plastics are found everywhere, and, now, even in human blood in the form of microplastics. But, even this information is not enough to prompt us to take charge of the problem and declare, "Let us do something about it."
Recently, the State Level Advisory Committee (SLAC) constituted under the Plastic Waste Management Rules, 2016, had its 9th meeting to take cognisance of the plastic menace. The meeting involved stakeholders roped in to deal with the problem.
However, on the ground, we see very little change, even as the plastic menace continues to fester all around. Panchayats and municipal bodies may claim they are doing enough, but not enough to educate people, and, when needed, to penalise offenders for failing to fall in line with a firm hand.
At the advisory meeting, the deputy director of panchayats informed that out of 191 VPs, 124 have set up MRF (materials recovery facility) and the remaining have temporary ones in place. This indicates that there is more work to be done by the grassroots bodies to set up material recovery facilities.
The Goa Waste Management Corporation has suggested a new initiative called Poti, a pilot project under which cloth bags will be sewn and distributed to the public free of charge through some kiosks.
GOACAN's Roland Martins feels this is fine, but he has called for firm enforcement of the ban on single-use plastics, which, he feels, is not happening.
He has suggested that the ban notification should be translated into local languages, compiled in a booklet form and circulated widely while, at the same time, sensitisation and awareness programmes should be conducted at the district level.
It has been reported that some of the village panchayats and municipal councils are imposing fines on persons selling single-use plastics. However, these operations are piecemeal ones and mostly restricted to photo ops.
Now, GOACAN has decided to request the Directorate of Panchayats & Department of Urban Development (formerly DMA) to upload the number of cases, fines imposed and plastic burning cases by June 5, 2023 (World Environment Day).
On this day, the NGO will be launching a major year-long initiative under its campaign on waste management for environment protection and sustainable consumption.
Under this initiative, it will seek to involve the consumer as a principal stakeholder to tackle SUPs by focusing on consumption patterns and waste disposal practices in the VPs and municipal councils.
Goa being a tourist state, the plastic pollution on its beaches doesn't augur well, more so when we call ourselves a high-end tourism destination. Many top destinations are paying the price for not taking care of plastic pollution.
With so many families dependent on the tourism trade, Goa certainly cannot ignore the plastic problem. It is time we deal with the issue head-on and with greater zeal.