Blanket ban on plastic bags in Delhi

New Delhi: In a significant decision to rid the city of plastic bags, Delhi Government imposed a blanket ban on their manufacture, sale, storage and use in the national capital, a long pending demand of the green groups.

The ban has been imposed under the Environment (Protection) Act, 1986 under which the violators could face imprisonment up to five years and fine of upto Rs 1 lakh or both.

The Delhi Cabinet at a meeting presided by Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit took the decision considering that the existing ban on plastic bags, which did not include manufacturing activities, had not given the desired results in the city since it had come into effect in January 2009.

"We have decided to impose a ban on manufacture, sale, storage and usage of plastic bags in the national capital under section-5 of the Environment (Protection) Act, 1986," Dikshit, known for her environment-friendly initiatives, told reporters.

Currently, around 400 plastic bag manufacturing units are operating in the city and the total yearly turnover of these units is in the range of Rs 800 crore to Rs 1,000 crore, an industry expert said.

A trader, who runs a plastic bag manufacturing unit, claimed that over 20,000 people would be left jobless if the units are closed down.

A senior official said government will issue a notification in a few days` time to implement the cabinet decision.

"All the plastic manufacturing units will have to close down," another official said.

Following a Delhi High Court order, the government had in January, 2009 imposed a ban on the use of plastic bags in various markets, shopping malls, hotels and hospitals but it has not been very effective. About 250 traders have been fined in the last two years for violating the ban.

The government, exercising provisions of Delhi Degradable Plastic Bags (Manufacturing, Sales and Usage) and Garbage (Controlled) Act-2000, had forbidden sales, storage and use of all kinds of plastic bags in certain notified places.

The notified places included luxury hotels, hospitals, restaurants, all fruits and vegetable outlets of Mother Dairy, liquor vends, shopping malls, local shopping centers and all retail and wholesale outlets of branded chain of outlets selling different consumer products including fruits and vegetables.