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Mon, 27 Jan 2020

Northeast Today

Meghalaya steadfast to end plastic pollution

Meghalaya steadfast to end plastic pollution
January 11
12:24 2020

While the country is battling to shun the use of single use plastic, the Northeastern state of Meghalaya is setting an example by adopting various measures to stop plastic pollution in the state. From CM to the common man, the state has not limited itself to just introducing laws, but adopting them wholeheartedly. Mumeninaz Zaman delves into the practices undertaken by the state to combat the plastic menace.

On October 28th the Meghalaya State Planning Board launched the “Beat Plastic Pollution with Sla & Pla” Project at Laitumkhrah Parking Lot, Shillong. While launching the project the Chairman of Meghalaya State Planning Board, Lambor Malngiang, informed that according to the survey, more than 5000 single use plastic bags are being utilized every day at Iew Shillong alone. The staggering amount of plastic is alarming which calls for action. He further urged the public to replace plastic with environment-friendly materials and make the campaign successful by saying “no” to plastic. The objective of the programme was to give awareness and more in-depth knowledge on how to eradicate plastic and use products like carry bags/packing materials that are environment friendly.

“Sla & Pla” on the other hand means “leaf and cloth” bag which can be used as an alternative to plastic and reused. These materials not only preserve the environment but can also generate income and employment for the local people. In line with the initiative of beat plastic pollution, a kiosk has been set up using recycled materials and wood, which will be selling cloth and leaves as an alternative to single-use plastic products.

On the occasion of Gandhi Jayanti, the Chief Minister of Meghalaya, Conrad Sangma said, “The State Government offices had barred single-use plastics and plastic bottles, and urged the people to take similar steps in their day-to-day lives.” He further added that the government and the general public have a responsibility towards safeguarding the environment and urged the people to take a pledge to reduce dependence on plastics.

He revealed that the Government had started a “plastic challenge” which was launched on September 1, to stop plastic use in all government offices, functions and events in the state. In this initiative, people and organisations were asked to collect plastics from their homes, villages, roads and streams, and deposit these with the authorities.

The movement saw village-level volunteers and ragpickers collect 17 tonnes of plastic waste from across the State. These were collected by a scrap dealer engaged by the Swachh Bharat Mission office. Sangma said a cement company had agreed to buy the plastics for one of its plants for use as fuel.

The CM had initiated the plastic ban in his office since 2018 and now there is a complete ban on the use of plastic cups, spoons/forks, straws, bags, folders, plastic wrapped bouquets, plastic water bottles and Styrofoam in government offices and events since September 1, 2019.

The government has also directed active participation of district administrations, municipal authorities, pollution control board, village administrations and the general public to ensure that the initiative does not just remain limited to letters but was also high on spirits.

Earlier the CM issued directives to look for solutions and in 2018, the state had a solution — it built its first plastic road in Nongstoin in West Khasi Hills. After the 2018 success, two more roads were built in Nongstoin (each 1 km). This is followed by 5 km of plastic roads. Currently, 10 km of plastic road is under construction. The roads are funded through the Chief Minister’s Rural and Urban Development Funds.

In a report published in swachhindia.ndtv.com, in 2018- India has built one lakh kilometres of roads in at least 11 states using discarded plastic. The revolution of plastic waste roads started brewing in 2015 when the Centre made it mandatory for all road developers in the country to use plastic waste for road construction after Padma Sri Rajagopalan Vasudevan, a professor from Madurai’s Thiagarajar College of Engineering, laid out a process of building roads by recycling plastic waste. This initiative falls in line with the government’s Swachh Bharat Abhiyan that aims to address India’s garbage crisis.

The roads made from waste plastic are more durable against extreme weather conditions like floods and heat as compared to the conventional roads, points a report by the World Economic Forum.

Speaking to NET, a banker turned Media and PR practitioner, Nurul Islam Laskar says, “Thanks to the Platinum Jubilee Celebration Committee of The Shillong Times, the premiere English Daily of Meghalaya, that they decided to take up the cleanliness of Shillong as one of the major objectives of the celebrations. It caught up like wild fire. What began as cleaning up of Shillong and its suburbs has now become an activity that has engulfed the whole state. I am overwhelmed by the response and participation of the people, right from the Governor of the state to the school children from across the state. Since last few weeks, the Meghalaya Legislative Assembly has discontinued the use of plastic bottles and is serving drinking water to the MLAs in glasses. Very strict measures have been put in place to do away with single use plastic products. Just a few days ago, an Operation Clean-Up Team from Shillong went to clean up River Umiew in Mawphlang. The river was littered with a lot of plastic. Village women washing clothes in the river were heard talking among themselves, “We should be ashamed that people from Shillong have to come all the way to clean up our river.” These small changes are some of the positive changes I have been observing in my hometown.”

Laskar is hopeful that the entire state will develop more environment-friendly initiatives in and around Shillong in the days to come.

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