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World Environment Day: Mountains of plastic choke 12 states, Himalayan ecosystem under threat

Volunteers picked up about four lakh pieces of plastic waste in a two-hour operation as 200 organisations joined hands to battle plastic pollution across Sikkim, Meghalaya, Tripura, Mizoram, Himachal, Nagaland, Uttarakhand, Arunachal, Bengal, J&K, Manipur and Assam.

Updated: Jun 05, 2018 15:43:21

By Nihi Sharma

A child collects plastic from a garbage dump in Guwahati. A clean-up of 12 Himalayan states has revealed a mountain of plastic, leaving experts alarmed at the level of pollution in the country’s Himalayan ecosystem. (File Photo)

A clean-up of 12 Himalayan states has revealed a mountain of plastic, leaving experts alarmed at the level of pollution in the country’s Himalayan ecosystem.

Volunteers picked up about four lakh pieces of plastic waste in a two-hour operation on May 26, as 200 organisations joined hands to battle plastic pollution across Sikkim, Meghalaya, Tripura, Mizoram, Himachal Pradesh, Nagaland, Uttarakhand, Arunachal Pradesh, West Bengal, Jammu and Kashmir, Manipur and Assam.

More than 2.50 lakh (62.67%) waste items comprised wrappers of chips, candies, chewing gums and tobacco products, said RP Gurung, chief executive officer of Environment and Conservation Society of Sikkim. Experts say such wrappers, which are classified as multi-layered plastic, can’t be recycled and are not bio-degradable. “It causes water, air and solid pollution. What’s worse is, this kind of plastic is not even picked from the litter, blocking it in the soil and thereby hampering regeneration of plants,” Priyadarshinee Shrestha, who works with the World Wide Fund for Nature and the Integrated Mountain Initiative (IMI), said. The clean-up was anchored by IMI, headquartered in Delhi, in association with the Zero Waste Himalaya Group in Sikkim.

The campaign, which was carried out by 15,000 people across 89 sites, also collected 36,389 PET bottles and 12,869 cartons of juices, milk and other drinks.



“A whole lot of carcinogenic, neurotoxic and hormone disruptive chemicals are the standard ingredients and waste products of plastic production. They inevitably find their way into our ecology through water, air and land pollution,” said director of Dehradun-based Forest Research Institute (FRI), Savita.

A Delhi-based scientist said companies need to start reducing the use of plastic in packaging. “Recycling has to be encouraged, but recycling has limitations. It is important to understand that plastics cannot be recycled indefinitely,” said Chandra Bhushan, deputy director general of the Centre for Science and Environment. The volunteers who participated in the campaign, too, were taken aback by the amount of plastic waste that was collected. “Even though, I am generally aware of the scale of plastic pollution, the amount of multi-layered plastics we collected was shocking and unimaginable,” said Janani Pradhan, a volunteer from Sikkim.

First Published: Jun 05, 2018 10:16:44

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