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Bangladesh - 3 weeks ago

Environmentalists demand effective step to stop use of polythene, plastic

A human chain was formed in front of the National Meseum

Golam Mostafa Jibon: Speakers at a human chain stressed the need for immediate steps to stop random use of plastic and polythene shopping bags with a view to protect the public health and environment.
They came up with the remarks, while forming a human chain in front of the National Museum in the capital yesterday demanding effective measures to stop the use of polythene and plastic as the environment and public health are now under threat due to scattering of polythene and plastic here and there across the country.
Speakers said, after the ban on polythene, plastic waste has more than tripled in the last two decades in the capital alone. But there is no initiative to recycle plastic or make an alternative to polythene. Life, nature and the environment are on the verge of dire consequences due to the faulty waste management and unawareness of the city dwellers.
The speakers said, the government should abandon the dual policy. Because the government is talking about using jute bags instead of polythene; On the other hand, jute mills are slowly closing down one after another. As a result, ordinary people are losing interest in using jute bags day by day.
The speakers further said that, it takes about a thousand years for a single plastic bag to mix with the ground. That’s why, how to recycle plastic waste is a big challenge for scientists. Plastics are a huge problem in the world, especially once used plastic products.
Plastic bottles are highly found, while cleaning the canals and drains of the capital. There is nothing that is not available. Starting from soft drink bottles, polythene bags with a variety of cosmetic wrappers and daily items are available here. This is why, severe water-logging is created everywhere of the capital with the invent of monsoon each year.
After use, these things are thrown in different water bodies and everywhere, so later it is flowing into the Bay of Bengal. Aquatic animals are taking it from there. Through, these animals, it is entering to food cycle. As a result, it is becoming a serious threat to the environment and public health day by day. The use and mismanagement of polythene and plastic materials is increasing day by day among the people despite knowing that it is harmful.

According to the World Bank’s statistics on the capital’s waste, an average of 178 tons of plastic waste was produced in the capital every day in 2005. The amount has reached to 656 in 2020. Prohibited polythene is being made in about 1200 factories all over the country including the capital. Most of them are based in old Dhaka. In Dhaka city alone, more than two crore polythene bags are disposed of once a day. These are filling into drains, canals and ditches that obstructing the flow of water and increasing the incidence of water-logging in light rains.

At present, more than 35 lakh tissue bags are being produced and marketed in the country every day. Although, these bags are made by polythene, those are being used saying cloth bags. The amount of plastic waste generated every day in Bangladesh is not the same amount of plastic waste in a month in many countries. Most of the people here do not know how harmful polythene and plastic are to the environment.

At present, 65 lakh tons of plastic waste has been deposited in the waters of Bangladesh. Around 4000 to 4500 tons are being added to it every day. About 17 percent of it is plastic. Half of these wastes are dumped directly into water or low lying areas. In Bangladesh, where the growth rate of organic waste is 5.2 percent, the growth rate of plastic waste is 7.5 percent.

Around 61 percent of the people in the country are using polythene bags. A study published in the Journal of Science of the Total Environment in November last year found that 87 percent of the country’s polythene and plastic waste was not being disposed of in an environmentally friendly manner.

There is no system to separate the perishable and indigestible products in the country like the developed world. The added civic awareness is making the situation even more dangerous. In the Hatirjheel area of the capital, there are separate baskets for dumping perishable and indigestible goods in the dustbin on the side of the road. But the citizens throw dirt wherever they want. There is more dirt on the lake shore and in the water than in the dustbin.

The use of ‘one time’ plastic tea cups has spread across the country from urban to rural areas due to the outbreak of the epidemic corona. This has increased the risk to public health and the environment. In this situation, there is a demand to stop the use of plastic cups. Bangladesh has been praised by the world as the first country to ban polythene shopping bags. Although, a ban on polythene bags was imposed in 2002, it has not yet been implemented. In fact, the High Court has set a one-year deadline for the law to take effect in January this year.

According to the Department of Environment, a total of 2,897 drives have been carried out from 2015 to 2021. At least 5,954 cases have been registered during the operation. A fine of Tk 20.81 crore has been imposed in these cases. Of them, Tk 17.69 crore has been collected. Some 91 people have been sentenced to various terms of imprisonment for using polythene.

Speakers said, though, the use of polythene is banned, there is no alternative product. The government could not popularize jute bags. Experts believe that alternative use of polythene and recycling of recycled plastics are essential to prevent contamination of plastic waste.

Many illegal factories have sprung up in Kamrangir Char in old Dhaka to produce new products from discarded plastics. But, the government has no plans to revive the plastic industry. The government has not taken into account issues like polybags from jute, flax from discarded bottles or inventing fuel oil by burning polybags. There is not even a large-scale research initiative.

The program was presided over by Engineer Md Abdus Sobhan, General Secretary of Poribesh Bachao Andolon (POBA), while it was conducted by MA Wahed Rasel, Secretary of the same organization.

Md Toiyob Ali, Secretary General of Nagorik Adhikar Sangrakshan Forum (NAFS), its Vice-President KM Siddique Ali, Assistant Secretary Md Selim, Executive Director of Gram Bangla Unnayan Committee AKM Maksud, President of Paribesh Andolon Manch Amir Hasan Masud, President of Old Dhaka Nagarik Udyog Nazimuddin, President of BDclick Aminul Islam Tubbus, President of Subandhan Md. Habibur Rahman, and Coordinator of Bangladesh Tourist Cyclists Rozina Akhter among others spoke on the occasion.

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