The unending dumping and burning of polythene, despite a ban on plastic bags in Jammu and Kashmir, is posing a threat to the picturesque Bhaderwah Valley. In and around Bhaderwah one can find many plastic dumps in paddy fields and across different localities, rue many environmentalists and local residents. Plastic waste can be seen lying around municipal dustbins and it is being burnt in forests and paddy fields where large amounts of garbage gets dumped, all at the cost of the environment, they claim.
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“The burning and dumping of polythene and plastic bags is posing a serious danger to the air and drinking water,” said Nasir K Shah, a social worker from Qilla Mohallah, Bhaderwah. The locals, especially those associated with agriculture and tourism, are worried with the situation and have demanded a stern and quick action by municipal authorities and local administration to check the menace.
“Most of the people here are dependent on agriculture, but since the last 5 years, we have stopped planting paddy in our fields as hundreds of kanals of agricultural land has got filled with heaps of plastic wrappers and polythene,” said Neeraj Singh Manhas, a local farmer and social worker. Accusing the local administration of not taking the issue seriously, they said the authorities have so far failed to implement the Jammu and Kashmir State Non-Biodegradable Material (Management, Handling and Disposal) Act, 2007, which was enacted to prohibit and regulate the handling and disposal of non-biodegradable material in the state.
Bhaderwah Sub-Divisional Magistrate Owais Ahmed Rana said steps to check the use of polythene bags were being taken and added that awareness among people was very important.
“We are serious about the implementation of the ban in letter and spirit. Recently, we formed a joint team of revenue and municipal officers who are regularly checking the market, conducting raids and have also fined several offenders,” Rana said.
“People should themselves come forward and cooperate by opting for paper or jute bags which will make a big difference. They should not only reject the polythene bags offered by shopkeepers but as responsible citizens should inform us about the offenders,” the SDM said. Bhaderwah, also called the ‘mini Kashmir’, is a major tourist attraction. Some of the local residents, however, felt that there was a need to enlighten the tourists about the use of plastic or polythene material.
Jammu and Kashmir is one of the few states in the country which has banned the use of plastic bags.