June 18, 2021

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Polythene has not been stopped even after 20 years of ban

The Chittagong Port Authority started a four-year project in 2019 to restore the navigability of the Karnafuli River. For this ‘suction dredger’ was brought from China. But the layer of polythene that had accumulated at the bottom of the river could not be removed even with this sophisticated dredger. Later, a study by a geographical expert team of Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology (BUET) found that two to seven meters of polythene and plastic layers had accumulated at the bottom of the river.

Not only Karnafuli or Buriganga river, but also polythene or plastic waste is found in the sea. Recently, two giant dead whales came ashore at Cox’s Bazar beach. The cause of death of these two whales has been identified, one of which is polythene or plastic waste. Experts believe that the whales died due to plastic waste in their stomachs.

Canals and drainage systems in all cities of the country, including the capital, are blocked by banned polythene. After the use of polythene-plastic products, it is thrown from houses, institutions, shops to the streets and dustbins. Then it goes to drains, canals or rivers. As the environment is being polluted, it is also creating complications and waterlogging in the drainage system. In addition to reducing the normal efficiency of the soil, this polythene is also creating obstacles in cultivation.

In this situation, ‘World Environment Day 2021’ is being celebrated in Bangladesh along with other countries of the world on Saturday. This time, the theme of the UN Environment Program Day is ‘Restore the environment, be the pledge of all’. In addition, the organization called for the observance of the day with the slogan ‘Save nature, involve generations’. On the occasion of the day, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina will inaugurate the ‘National Tree Planting Campaign 2021’ by planting saplings of four trees at Ganobhaban under the theme ‘Promise in Mujib Year, make Sonar Bangla green’.

About 20 years ago, the government banned the production, marketing and use of polythene. Even after this, the use of harmful polythene has not stopped. Rather, it is increasing. Its use is running freely from the sidewalk to the shopping mall. Polythene is being used in food hotels, rice, pulses, fish, meat and vegetables.

The use, production, marketing and transportation of polythene bags were banned in Bangladesh in 2002 under the Environmental Protection Act-1995. Section 15 of the law states that if a person produces banned polythene, he can be sentenced to 10 years imprisonment or a fine of Rs 10 lakh, or even both. At the same time, if polythene is marketed, a fine of Tk 10,000 including six months jail is provided. Although the use of polythene has been limited for three-four years since 2002, it is now being used freely everywhere.

Director General of the Department of Environment. Ashraf Uddin told Kaler Kanth, “Once the lockdown is over, we will intensify our campaign to stop the production and use of polythene. However, public awareness is very necessary in this regard. Besides, we have to work on what can be used as an alternative to polythene.

According to the Save the Environment Movement (PABA), there are about 1,200 banned polythene factories across the country, including in the capital. There are at least 300 factories in the alleys of old Dhaka. There are several small and big factories in Keraniganj, Jinjira, Kamrangir Char, Mirpur, Karwan Bazar, Tejgaon and Tongi. From Jatrabari to Fatulla in Narayanganj, more than a hundred factories have sprung up along the Buriganga. Polythene is supplied from these factories all over the country. According to a study by the Earth Day Network, a platform of 193 countries, Bangladesh ranks 10th in the world in the production of polythene and plastic waste.

Sources said that although the government has banned the production of polythene bags, it has allowed the production of more than 55 microns of polythene products or packaging. Using this opportunity, imported polythene is being produced by importing approved raw materials. Authorized factory owners are selling raw materials to small factories. In addition, banned polythene bags are being made by recycling the remaining raw materials after making various plastic products.

Stamford University Center for Atmospheric Pollution Study (CAPS) Director Prof. Ahmed Kamruzzaman Majumder told Kaler Kanth, “Since the closure of polythene in 2002, its use has been low for three or four years. However, due to lack of proper market supervision and inability to offer any alternative, polythene has returned. The lifetime of this polythene is 200 to 300 years. We have not been able to offer any alternative to polythene for a long time.

He added, ‘Polythene is reducing waterlogging as well as soil fertility. Even if it does not decompose, its molecules break down, which mixes with soil and water. And it goes into our body through various fruits and fish, which is very harmful. Our research has found polythene molecules in Dhanmondi Lake and Buriganga fish. In addition, in a study in 2019, we saw that plastic waste is floating in 42 kilometers of water in the coastal area.

Mirpur-14 grocer shopkeeper said why you are using polythene. Huge. He told Kaler Kantha, ‘You have to buy 100 pieces of paper for two hundred to three hundred rupees. On the other hand, one kg of polythene can be bought for 150 rupees. It contains two hundred to two and a half hundred polythene. First, the price of polythene is low, easy to carry. Buyers feel comfortable buying products in polythene.

In 2016, the Ministry of Textiles and Jute banned the use of plastic or polythene as packaging for 19 products including paddy, rice, maize, fertilizer and sugar. Then some operations were also carried out. But later the benefits of that initiative did not match. Although Bangladeshi scientists have invented an alternative to polythene, the ‘golden bag’, its commercial use has not been possible for a long time.