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Banned polythene bags make a comeback in Chittagong

  • Published at 12:00 pm September 1st, 2019
Department of Environment (DoE) logo

DoE Director Azadur Rahman Mollick conducted the drive and sealed off the errant factory

Despite regular drives conducted by the Department of Environment (DoE), the manufacturing and the use of environmentally hazardous polythene bags are still rampant in the premier port city. 

On August 27, the DoE seized one tonne of banned polythene bags from a polythene manufacturing company after conducting a drive at Aturar Depot area in the city on Tuesday.

DoE Director Azadur Rahman Mollick conducted the drive and sealed off the errant factory.  

On August 28, Executive Magistrate of the DoE Begum Shahrin Ferdous led a drive and seized 4 tonnes of polythene shopping bags from Asadganj area in the city.

On August 31, DoE Director Azadur Rahman Mollick conducted another drive at Fateyabad area under Hathazari area in the city and seized one tonne of polythene shopping bags. 

According to the DoE, a total of 60 drives were conducted in the city where18.58 tonnes of banned polythene were recovered and around Tk 10 lakh were realized as fines in the current year.  

The DoE officials said that instead of manufacturing, most of the businesses in the port city recycle polythene. 

The polythene manufacturing businesses are largely located in the capital. The businesses which recycle polythene in the city are located in Reazuddin Bazar, Boropol, Korbaniganj, Asadganj, Kalamia Bazar, Baluardighi areas.

Azadur Rahman Mollick, director of the DoE (Chittagong Metropolitan), said that they were conducting anti-polythene drives on a regular basis and they were also taking stern actions against the recyclers and distributors of banned polythene shopping in the city.

“We have also launched an anti-polythene campaign in the city. As part of the campaign, we are raising awareness among the people regarding the adverse effects of polythene on the environment. We are also exchanging views with kitchen market traders of the city in this regard,” said the DoE director, adding that the manufacturing would gradually come down if we stop using polythene bags for daily use.

Green activists and environmentalists pointed out that the use of environmentally hazardous polythene bags is still rampant in the country due to the absence of a cost-effective and easily available alternative.

They said the rampant use of polythene was responsible for the persistent water-logging in the port city since it obstructed the free flow of water in the drains and canals.

 “The water cycle is greatly disturbed due to the rampant use of polythene. 80 percent water in nature should pass through the soil, 10 percent water evaporated and the rest 10 per cent should flow across water bodies like drains, rivers and ponds. However, the groundwater level is depleting fast as the recycling process is being greatly disturbed,” said Professor Muhammad Edris Ali, Department of Chemistry at Government Hazi Muhammad Mohsin College.

Polythene is a petroleum-based synthetic substance. It is used as a packaging material mainly due to its low cost, but it is not biodegradable and wreaks havoc on the environment.  

When discarded, polythene remains intact in the soil since it takes centuries to decompose and disturbs the flow of nutrients and sunlight to the soil. It also destroys the beneficial bacteria in soil and reduces its fertility and causes soil compaction in the long run. When burnt, the polythene turns into carbon dioxide and thus pollutes air, the green activists pointed out. 

It may be mentioned that polythene shopping bags were introduced in the country in 1980s and quickly replaced conventional jute bags.

Considering the serious environmental hazard, the government banned the manufacture, marketing and use of polythene shopping bags in the capital effective from January 1, 2002, followed by a countrywide ban from March 31 of the same year. However, an exception to the ban was made for packaging of 14 items. They included biscuit, chanachur, bread, salt, vermicelli, medicine, flour, naphthalene, fertiliser, chocolate and milk powder.

In January 2010, the Department of Environment (DoE) allowed the use of polythene under certain conditions -- to transport fish fries, preserve mushrooms, and packaging of food items.

The fine for using poly bags for other purposes except for export is Tk 500.

Maximum penalty under the Environment Conservation Act, 1995, for manufacturing and marketing polythene shopping bag is 10 years' rigorous imprisonment, or a maximum fine of Tk 10 lakh, or both. Only environment court has the authority to sentence anyone for the offences.

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