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Editorial of the Day (4th Mar): Himalayas -The Plastic Problem

Himalayas -The Plastic Problem

  • Microplastics, resulting from the degradation of larger plastic pieces, have been found in the Himalayan mountains, affecting soil, water, and biodiversity.
  • This pollution compromises the freshwater sources essential for downstream communities.

Causes of Plastic Pollution in Himalayas

  • Rapid urbanisation, changing consumption patterns, and increasing tourism are exacerbating the issue.
  • A 2022 waste audit revealed 92.7% of trash as plastic, with 72% non-recyclable.

Waste Management Challenges

  • India’s plastic overshoot day (Jan 6, 2023) highlights the inadequacy of waste management systems.
  • High mismanaged waste index (98.55%) indicates a significant gap between waste generation and management capacity.
  • While the government claims 60% plastic recycling, independent analysis suggests only 12% is truly recycled.

Regulatory Framework And Implementation Gaps

  • National Regulations: Solid Waste Management Rules (SWM) 2016, Plastic Waste Management (PWM) Rules 2016, and Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) 2022.
  • State-level Actions:
    • Himachal Pradesh: Ban on some plastics, buyback policy for non-recyclable plastics.
    • Sikkim: Ban on packaged mineral water, regulatory system in place, but infrastructure challenges remain.
    • Mizoram: By-laws under PWM implemented.
    • Tripura: Policy changes, municipal by-laws, and task force established, but results not yet visible.

Challenges in Implementation

  • Lack of segregation at source hinders proper waste disposal. Landfills overflow with mixed waste, causing further environmental damage.
  • Local bodies, responsible for waste management, lack adequate power and resources.
  • Collaboration between local bodies and producers under EPR needs clarification, including the role of traditional institutions in the IHR.

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  • Allocate resources considering the IHR’s unique challenges and ecological sensitivity.
  • Empower local bodies and create necessary infrastructure for waste management.
  • Encourage waste segregation and public participation through sustained campaigns.
  • Implement geographically-sensitive EPR targets, considering the higher operational costs in the IHR.
  • Plug data gaps to better understand the nature and volume of waste generated.
  • Leverage existing schemes and funds (Swachh Bharat Mission (SBM), MGNREGA, Finance Commission grants) for infrastructure creation and maintenance.
  • Utilise Swachh Bharat Kosh Trust, Atal Mission for Rejuvenation and Urban Transformation (AMRUT), and Smart Cities Scheme for resource mobilisation and scientific waste management initiatives.

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