The most easily available objects in the town may be plastic bags. You enter home with vegetables wrapped in these bags. You see them littering literally every inch of Kathmandu’s space. They are there in the piles of garbage and if you have looked into Kathmandu’s rivers after the heavy rains, you must have seen a sea of plastics floating. So is the case with other major towns and emerging marketplaces across the country. It, at times, seems the only thing we are capable of producing and leave with abandonment wherever we can is plastic bags. That bags and other items made of plastic are bad is a common knowledge. Plastics are the cause of environmental pollution, they kill wildlife and marine life, cause harm to human health and contribute to climate change. This is why many countries have banned plastic use and others have adopted some form of legislation to regulate plastic. Nepal has tried it too.
The government of Nepal had imposed a ban on plastic bags below 40 microns effective from April, 2015 in Kathmandu Valley. Soon, the earthquake hit the country and the ban could not be implemented immediately. However, even after four years of that good decision, Nepal has not made any progress in prohibiting the use of plastic bags or even regulating them. Except for some big shopping centers, plastic bag is what you get to buy things in everywhere. In this bleak context, it is encouraging that some local authorities and cities are coming up with plans to ban plastic bags of certain thickness. Most recently, Khumbu Pasanglhamu Rural Municipality of Solukhumbu district in the Everest region has taken the decision to ban plastic items of less than 30 microns thickness in the rural municipality. The Municipality aims at enforcing this law from January 1, 2020. In May this year, Chandannath Municipality in Jumla district had also banned the use of non-reusable plastic bags. Nepal Army prohibited plastic bags inside the army headquarters in February. Pokhara did that as early as 2010. Other cities like Ilam, Damak and Palpa have done it too.
These announcements are encouraging but our success in implementing the ban has been little or none. In case of Khumbu, for example, similar ban had been announced in 1999 but it could not be implemented largely due to failure of the government to enforce the decision and lack of cooperation from the locals. Banning plastic is necessary across Nepal, more so in important tourist destinations like Namche, Pokhara, Kathmandu and Chitwan. Plastic has littered our mountains including Mount Everest and this is making our cities and towns ugly. Nepal has not been able to enforce the ban largely because plastic manufacturers have resisted it. They have pressured the government not to implement it and governments have often relented. If we become lenient like this, we will never be able to enforce law in this country. Now the hazards of plastic bags have become too obvious even for common people. Studies after studies have proved how hazardous they are for us and entire living organisms. All the cities which have announced the bans should follow through their decisions and they should be supported by the government in enforcing those decisions. When it comes to banning use of as hazardous elements as plastic, there should not be any ifs and buts.