This year the theme is ‘Beat Plastic Pollution’
Discussants at a views-exchange meeting have called for stopping the source points where illegal polythene bags are produced and then distributed all over the country.
They have also urged the Department of Environment (DoE) and the police to conduct regular drives against illegal production of polythene bags.
On the eve of World Environment Day 2018, the DoE’s Chittagong metropolitan office organized the meeting at its Halda auditorium in the city on Wednesday.
This year the theme is “Beat Plastic Pollution.”
With DoE Director Azadur Rahman Mollick in the chair, the meeting was attended by representatives from different government agencies, including Bangladesh Jute Mills Corporation, Chittagong City Corporation, Chittagong Metropolitan Police, Department of Agricultural Extension, BSTI, polythene recyclers, social workers, and NGOs, among others.
The participants observed that the use of environmentally hazardous polythene bags was 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.
Polythene is a petroleum-based synthetic substance. It is used as packaging material mainly due to its low cost, but it is not biodegradable and wreaks havoc on the environment.
Jamir Uddin, deputy director of the DoE, gave a PowerPoint presentation on the environmental degradation caused by plastic.
“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 of soil and its fertility and causes soil compaction in the long run. When burnt, the polythene turns into carbon dioxide and thus pollutes the air,” he said.
Mokbul Hossain, director of DoE Chattogram region, said polythene bags were also entering the country illegally from India.
“There is no denying banned polythene bags are being produced somewhere in the country. The use of banned shopping polythene bags is increasing due to easy availability,” he said.
Considering the serious environmental hazards, the government had banned the manufacture, marketing, and use of polythene shopping bags in Dhaka with effect from January 1, 2002, which was followed by a countrywide ban from March 31.
However, an exception to the ban was made for packaging of 14 items. They include biscuit, chanachur, bread, salt, vermicelli, medicine, flour, naphthalene, fertiliser, chocolate, and milk powder.
In January 2010, the DoE partially allowed the use of polythene under certain conditions whereby three categories of polythene bags could be manufactured -- to transport fish fries, preserve mushrooms, and the packaging of food items.