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Plastic bags banned in MP to save cows

Bhopal: The Madhya Pradesh government on Tuesday decided to ban plastic and polythene bags across the state from May 1, saying it is leading to cow deaths and polluting the environment. However, the government did not specify if plastic bags of a certain thickness will be allowed, triggering confusion among manufacturers.

The Shivraj Singh Chouhan government had on January 1 declared tourist destinations and holy cities in MP polythene free. Environmentalists have hailed the ban, and urged the administration to follow it up in letter and spirit.
“The state cabinet expressed concern over increasing use of polythene carry bags and their consumption in large number by the cattle resulting in their deaths. It was unanimously decided to ban polythene bags across the state from May 1,” said legislative affairs and public relations minister Narottam Mishra while briefing reporters.
On Republic Day, the CM had announced a total ban on polythene in the state from May 1. “Cows eat polythene,. which chokes their digestive system, leading to their death. Use of polythene carrybags and their littering also affects the environment and hygiene. Anybody caught using polythene will be penalized,” he had said.

The cabinet decision came in view of directives issued by the National Green Tribunal (NGT) during hearing of a case filed by environmentalist Subhash Pandey. The tribunal had sought details from the state government regarding a ban on the manufacture, storage, sale, distribution and use of polythene bags in MP.

In November 2013, NGT had directed Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh to ban plastic carrybags within six months. In January 2015, NGT asked the state government to take action in six weeks. And in October, the tribunal issued a notification banning the use and manufacture of plastic bags by October 30 and ensure implementation of the ban from January 1, 2015. Chouhan agreed to take immediate steps and said the government will give polythene manufacturers three months before the ban.

When asked how this ban would be implemented, Mishra said the modalities are yet to be worked out. “This ban is not meant for buckets and other plastic materials. It is restricted to plastic carrybags only,” the minister clarified. When TOI spoke to a senior official of the pollution control board — the agency that will enforce the ban — he was clueless on whether only thin polythene bags were banned. “We are yet to get the order,” he said.
After cabinet clearance, it will be referred to the assembly and then to the Centre for approval. The ban polythene will come into effect after it is approved by the home ministry and the President’s office, said sources in Mantralaya.

Environmentalist Ajay Dube said plastic is already banned in many states, but only on paper. “The track record of MP government in implementing environmental laws is not good. This decision should be implemented in true spirit. Only then it will solve the purpose of saving the environment,” he said. Environmentalist Subhash Pandey feels the order to ban plastic has come late. “It was NGT’s orders three years back. However, the decision to ban plastic could prove a milestone in conserving land, soil and water,” he said.

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