Polythene is a non biodegradable substance that threatens our ecosystem and environment by its very cruel nature. It chokes the life of all creatures on the mother earth as well as in water bodies. According to an estimate more than 100 million tones of plastic is produced every year all over the world and each year, an estimated 500 billion to 1 trillion plastic bags are consumed worldwide. There has been unabated use of polythene in the Kashmir valley for the past two decades and tones of polythene bags are being used by the people and later discarded polythene bags are thrown and dumped carelessly everywhere like the fresh water bodies, drains, irrigation canals, agricultural fields, playgrounds, gardens that has made them to look very ugly instead fascinating. As polythene is composed of major toxic pollutants, it has the potential to cause significant harm to our environment in the form of air, water, and land pollution. According to Environmentalists, polythene bags could take anywhere from 500 to 1,000 years to disintegrate. The harmful polythene bags can be found almost everywhere in Kashmir and its effects are very disastrous. It causes soil pollution that reduces soil fertility, retards plant growth; flowers stop to bloom, decreases agricultural production and prevent the seepage of rainwater into the water table. During summer, Piles of discarded polythene bags in streets, markets, open fields etc emit foul smell and become breeding grounds for bacteria, Housefly, mosquito etc that cause various diseases to human beings, domestic animals and birds . Many times polythene bags are eaten up by cattle that die after consuming them. Dumping of polythene bags near water bodies and forest sites have resulted degradation of forests, drying of water sources, weather irregularity, soil erosion, flash floods and reduction of forest productivity. Polythene bags choke sewer pipes and clog drains resulting into water-logging and disruption of the entire drainage system in inhabited or uninhabited areas. Choking of sewer pipes and clogging of drains become one of the factors of floods in urban areas that Kashmir valley witnessed in September, 2014.Rampant use of polythene and plastics in J&K are adversely affecting our tourist famous and revenue source water bodies like Dal Lake, Nageen Lake, Mansbal Lake, Jehlum etc. The unabated use of polythene bags finding way into these lakes and springs causing their slow and steady death. Unabated use of polythene bags have not only decreased depth of water bodies of the valley but also have shrunk their area. Thus Dal lake, Nigeen lake, Mansbal Lake and the Jehlum are are on the verge of extinction as a result of dumping of tones of polythene in them.
The aquatic flora and fauna have been adversely affected and even some species became extinct due to rising polythene levels in the water bodies. The Jammu and Kashmir government enacted an act called Non Biodegradable Material (Management, Handing and Disposal Act) which came into force from December 2007 in order to ban unabated use of polythene. Despite ban, the polythene bags are being used continuously at an alarming rate in the valley due to easy availability in each and every market. Concerned officials in Kashmir valley have failed to check and stop the sale and use of polythene bags. Tonnes of polythene bags are allowed to enter Kashmir at an alarming rate due to nexus between polythene smugglers and officials of various toll posts. How to control the rampant use of polythene bags in Kashmir valley, various measure are needed on war footing basis: Education and awareness among people regarding harmful effects of polythene through seminars, campaigns, rallies etc can bring positive change among the people, strict implementation of laws, restriction on polythene transportation into the valley by administration, setting up of plastic recycling facilities, promoting use of organic material bags instead polythene bags etc.
It is the high time for the government to strictly implement the laws pertaining to the ban on polythene in letter and spirit in the valley and violators of laws be dealt strictly otherwise, the water bodies, the mother earth will get completely dumped with heaps of polythene that can have very serious consequences on all flora and fauna. The government, civil society, NGO’S and the people must come forward and fight the menace of unabated plastic use collectively and with the firm determination. Let’s avoid using plastic bags and pledge to use biodegradable bags like jute bags, cloth bags etc. These eco-friendly bags are not only cheap but attractive and light weight and can add to the fertility of the soil after decomposition and save our environment from various types of pollutions for better living future of all flora and fauna.
(The author is a Teacher at Govt Boys Higher Secondary School Beerwah. Views are his own)