The monsoon is still a month away, but certain BMC officers are working against the clock to eliminate the plastic menace in time for the rains, as the little bags are notorious for clogging drains and preventing rainwater from reaching the sea, which in turn leads to flooding. The disastrous floods in 2005 have been attributed largely to plastic bags clogging the drains, and ever since, the civic body has been waging a difficult war against the plastic menace, conducting regular raids to seize plastic bags of the harmful below-50 micron category from hawkers and establishments.
In 2011, the civic body seized around 3,268.8 kg of plastic – a definite improvement on 2010’s haul, and also apprehended 7,464 offenders. The fear of raids is part of the reason shopping malls and stores are so vigilant about charging customers for plastic bags. “The regular raids, and the charges levied on plastic bags given to customers, has brought a measure of control on the plastic menace,” said an official, on the condition of anonymity.
“We keep details of errant manufacturing units, shops and markets on a list and check on them every month. Two flying squads are also performing checks across the city,” said Chief Inspector (shops and establishments) R Nandanwar. He added, “Malls charge people for plastic bags, and also offer certain discounts to those who use a cloth bag, which is very encouraging.” Between January and April this year, the civic body has seized 1,210.85 kg of plastic in the city, for which they have collected fines worth Rs 15,17,470. The two flying squads comprise 12 members each, and are gearing up to take strict action. Plastic zones are demarcated and squads are formed at the ward level, which identify plastic-prone areas.
Mulund, Bhandup and Borivli are a few of the challenging areas. In these areas, sanitary inspectors and nuisance detectors take action against errant shopkeepers and hawkers with help from clean-up marshals and officials from the encroachment department and charge heavy fines. “We have been building the retaining walls in nullahs and also placing dustbins along their length. But still people throw plastic bags and other materials into the drains, clogging them. We have been removing the silt and garbage,” informed L S Vhatkar, chief engineer (storm water drains).
Did you know?
Mumbai generates at least 8,000 metric tonnes of garbage every day. Four per cent of this garbage consists of plastic.