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4th March 2024 (14 Topics)

Mountains of plastics are choking the Himalayan States

Context:

Plastic pollution in the Indian Himalayan Region has become a significant concern due to rapid urbanization, changing production patterns, and increasing tourist footfalls, leading to adverse impacts on biodiversity and freshwater sources.

Impact of Plastic Pollution

  • Ubiquitous Presence of Plastic: Plastic pollution is widespread, affecting diverse ecosystems from mountains to oceans, and even inside human bodies like lungs and placenta.
  • Environmental Degradation: Improper disposal of plastic waste in the Indian Himalayan Region is causing soil and water pollution, threatening biodiversity and freshwater sources vital for downstream communities.
  • Challenges from Tourism: Increasing tourist footfalls exacerbate the plastic waste crisis, with reports of towns drowning in plastic waste and fragile ecosystems like Ramsar sites affected.

Regulatory Framework and Challenges

  • Legal Mandates: Solid Waste Management Rules (SWM) 2016, Plastic Waste Management (PWM) Rules 2016, and Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) 2022 constitute the regulatory framework, but specific needs of hill areas are often overlooked.
  • State Initiatives: Some states like Himachal Pradesh, Sikkim, and Mizoram have enacted laws to curb plastic use, but challenges persist in enforcement and infrastructure development.
  • Waste Management Gap: Despite legal mandates, waste segregation and scientific disposal remain inadequate, with overflowing landfills contributing to soil, water, and air pollution.

Solutions and Policy Recommendations

  • Resource Allocation and Support: Adequate resource allocation, infrastructure development, and empowerment of local bodies are crucial for effective waste management, considering the region's ecological sensitivity.
  • Public Participation and Education: Public engagement through sustained education campaigns and waste segregation initiatives is essential to address the plastic waste crisis.
  • Convergence of Schemes: Convergence of existing schemes like Swachh Bharat Mission, Finance Commission grants, and corporate social responsibility funds can enhance resources for waste management infrastructure and operations.
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