Mere paperwork

goa has been unable to implement its Biodegradable Garbage Control Act of 1996, which was to have been implemented eighteen months ago. The state government says the law aimed at stopping plastics and non-biodegradable wastes from ending up in public drains, roads and fields has to be implemented by panchayats (village councils) and municipalities.

"Regrettably the local authorities have so far not been able to implement the Act and rules satisfactorily," says the government, which has placed this issue on the agenda for the seventh meeting of the Goa Environmental Protection Council, held at the state governor's residence in the last week of June.Various reasons have been cited for the non-implementation of the law, like lack of funds, humanpower and garbage disposal sites. At present, the matter is before a Goa High Court bench. Local bodies have been asked to file their statements on the issue.

Officials argue that it is now "accepted" that the law should contain provisions to offer financial incentives to encourage biodegradable packaging and discourage non-biodegradables. Citizens across the state can see the impact of the non-implementation of this law, and that of the proliferation of plastic-bags: fields and roadsides are littered with plastics that linger around for longer than a lifetime. Officials have asked for additional funds for managing biodegradable wastes. They note that this year's budget has "contemplated" various measures that they say will gene-rate funds for environmental management.

This could result in a Plastic Containment Fund and a Beach Improvement Fund. Recently, the state cabinet approved a draft bill to amend the law. It includes a clause to collect cess on plastic bottles used for ubiquitous mineral water and soft drinks.

"Recycling of plastic is at present carried out without any control whatsoever and, as such, bags or containers made of recycled plastic with potentially dangerous pigments or colourants are used for packing food stuffs and beverages," say officials. Such bags and containers can release toxic substances, contaminating the contents. The Union government notified rules on use of recycled plastic a few months ago. Under these, the state pollution control boards have to enforce manufacture and recycling provisions. The district collector has to enforce rules on the use, collection, segregation, transportation and disposal of plastics or recycled plastics.

The state government is talking in terms of involving the public, reputed non-governmental organisations and business houses. The issue of air pollution from mining ore transportation also came up during the meeting, as did the "innate fear" of pollution from large industries, as seen in the case of the Meta Strips factory (see 'Meta outstripped', Down To Earth , Vol 9, No 5, July 31, 2000).

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