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Reducing single-use plastic need of the hour: MoS Mahesh Sharma at WED-2018 celebrations

The menace of plastic cannot be tackled till a win-win situation is reached for all stakeholders, the minister said in a special address on the inaugural day of the global celebrations of World Environment Day (WED) 2018. The event is being hosted by India from June 1 to June 5.

“The need of the hour is to create social awareness, particularly among the youth, on reducing single-use of plastic and its reuse. The menace of plastic cannot be tackled till a win-win situation is created for all stakeholders with regard to the use of plastic,” he said.

Emphasising the importance of Extended Producer Responsibility in reducing use of plastic, Sharma said the organised sector should be roped in to retrieve, recycle and reuse plastic.

Speaking on the occasion, Union Environment Secretary C K Mishra highlighted the need to introspect on what could be done individually, as well as collectively to reduce the use of plastic. The need of the hour is to launch a strong campaign to say no to single-use plastic, he said.

Durga Shankar Mishra, Secretary, Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs, said that single-use plastics are a matter of concern as they are non-biodegradable. “The total plastic produced in the last decade is more than that generated in the whole century,” he said.

European Union (EU) ambassador to India Tomasz Kozlowski praised India’s leadership role on environmental issues and highlighted the concept of ‘plogging’ (a combination of picking up plastic waste and jogging) This concept is popular in several European nations and can be used to reduce plastic pollution, Kozlowski said.

The theme for this year’s WED celebrations is “Beat Plastic Pollution” and it started today with a total of three thematic sessions being held at the Vigyan Bhawan. The thematic session on ‘Himalayan Ecosystem’ was presided over by Director General and Special Secretary, Environment Ministry, Siddhanta Das.

Change makers, including a waste-free vision for Himalayan states, sharing experiences and success stories from the Himalayan region, were among the several topics discussed during the session. Case studies such as those on waste management in the core zone of the Kailash landscape, waste warriors taming waste and that of forest dwellers ‘Van Rajis’ of the landscape were shared.

The challenges of solid waste, including plastic in the Himalayan landscape and some of the innovative practices from the region, which could provide a way forward in Himalayas were also highlighted.

To discuss the menace of air pollution a session “Air pollution in Indian cities – present status and future action” was also held. Union Environment Secretary Mishra said correct and understandable knowledge, based on accurately measured parameters, is helping build a more nuanced perception, influencing thought processes and demystifying the phenomenology behind pollution and its linkage with health.

“This knowledge suggests that there is something not quite sustainable in the way we as a society are conducting ourselves — lifestyle, consumption, and production. The government cannot solve this without a people’s movement,” he said.

Mishra stressed those issues such as Particulate Matter, vehicular emissions and industrial pollution need positive contribution of people to go together with government initiatives. “The success of the National Clean Air Programme is critical for our healthy survival,” he said.

Secretary, Department of Agricultural Research and Education (DARE), Trilochan Mohapatra said due to technological evolution over the past few decades, straw redundancy has resulted in an abundance of crop residue, which farmers find cheapest to burn, causing serious air pollution and impacting the health of citizens. Quoting statistics to support his argument, he said the government has spent Rs 1,200 crore over two years to address air pollution from crop residue burning. “The government is offering 80 percent subsidy on combined technological innovation of straw management system and happy seeder,” he pointed out.

Mohapatra said straw management systems, when attached to a combined harvester, helps cut straw into small pieces and create a 6 inch thick bed after being separated from the green. “Straw goes back as mulch, increasing its carbon and nutrient content of soil, also leading to retention of moisture and prevention of weeds,” he said.

Mohapatra suggested that straw may also be used to generate bio-oil, bio-ethanol, compost, or energy in the form of pellets.

A K Mehta, Additional Secretary, Environment Ministry pointed out that some bold decisions such as migration to BS VI standards jumping a step, interventions to contain and eventually eliminate stubble burning, and an action plan for 61 (of the envisaged 100) cities have been readied. “This plan needs to be rolled out soon,” he said, adding that local action is critical to manage air pollution.

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