PM Modi addressed the One Ocean Summit through video conference and affirmed India’s commitment to eliminate single use plastic. He also directed the Indian Navy to contribute 100 ship days this year for cleaning plastic garbage from the seas.
Harsh Vardhan, then environment minister, had pitched for freedom from single-use plastic in 2022. That was by far the most ambitious plan among nations that have promised to take action on the issue.
Plastics are used for a range of purposes and have multiple uses, but they also take forever to break down. It takes up to 500 years for them to decompose, and they can clog our natural environment, polluting waterways and oceans. They also harm wildlife and endanger the health of people.
The UN’s top environment official, Erik Solheim, said India’s goal of banning single-use plastic is “unprecedented.” He added that it could provide a model for the world to follow.
In a speech on India’s Independence Day, Environment Minister Harsh Vardhan called for freedom from single-use plastic. He vowed to ban plastic bags, cups and straws on Oct. 2. He also launched a programme to monitor and tackle pollution along the country’s 7,500km coastline.
Modi also addressed the One Ocean Summit in France via video conference. He said India is committed to eliminating plastic waste and will be happy to join France in launching a global initiative on the issue.
Plastic has become a global health hazard. Nearly 50 percent of single-use plastic ends up in oceans, killing marine life and entering the human food chain, studies show. But, the global response to the problem has been patchy.
Many countries have introduced rules to reduce the use of plastic, from bans on styrofoam in Kenya and on plastic bags in Sri Lanka to the phasing out of polythene carry bags in India. But, a central and comprehensive definition of what constitutes single-use plastic is crucial for the success of any such ban.
Harsh Vardhan used the World Environment Day summit to announce that 100 national monuments including the Taj Mahal would be made litter-free and that India, which has 7,500km of coastline, will launch a campaign and programmes to monitor pollution from its waters. But he was quick to add that it will be hard to achieve without the help of people. It is why he urged them to adopt green lifestyles.
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In a virtual address to the summit, PM Modi said that India will be happy to join France in launching a global initiative on single-use plastics. He also lauded the country’s longstanding legacy as a maritime civilisation and hoped for a legally binding international treaty this year on biodiversity beyond national jurisdiction.
While economists have largely welcomed his populist signature schemes like millions of new toilets to reduce open defecation and subsidised cooking gas for the poor, their worry is his government’s ballooning spending with no matching income from taxes or exports. That’s a big reason why they fear that the economy may slow down this year, if not next.
Modi’s poll numbers show that India’s people see him as a modernizing prime minister pulling the country forward. But worldly Indians are aghast at the way he promotes what some say is a Jim Crow Hindu nationalism that marginalizes religious minorities, especially Muslims. They fear a growing personality cult and an authoritarian streak that is bringing the country backward.
The PM’s commitment to eliminating single-use plastic is a positive step, but the effort must be backed by policies like making air travel more expensive and promoting renewable energy. A central legislation with a clear definition of single-use plastic will also be crucial.
On the domestic front, Modi is pushing for a ban on single-use plastic bags, cups and straws. He’s also encouraging the use of gas cylinders rather than sticks and cow dung, which contribute to indoor air pollution, a big health issue for poor Indians. He’s pledging to make 100 national monuments, including the Taj Mahal, litter-free.