Chennai: Coming down heavily on the Tamil Nadu government over illegal hoardings, the Madras High Court on Friday wondered how many more lives should be lost as a result of such banners, endangering the lives of people.A day after a 23-year-old woman techie came under the wheels of a water tanker after she fell losing balance when an illegal hoarding crashed on her in a city suburb, the court asked if the government will take a firm stand against such unauthorised banners. “How many more litres of blood the state government needs to paint the roads with,” a Division Bench of Justices M Sathyanarayanan and N Seshasayee wondered. The court asked whether at least now Chief Minister K Palaniswami will be willing to issue a statement against such unauthorised banners.
Last year, on the occasion of World Environment Day, India announced its resolve to phase out single-use plastic by 2022. This deadline was later updated to be 2025. Indeed, the monumental task of phasing out something that so essential to regular modern life is bound to take a good length of time and much more. This resolve was reiterated and the government’s decision was reinforced in the Prime Minister’s speech on Independence Day from the ramparts of Red Fort. As practical matters stand, the ban of single-use plastic is sure to adversely impact a sizable part of existing investments in machinery and jobs in the industry will suffer. But this eventually gets counter-balanced in the long run with alternate systems functioning well in place. The overall cost of clearing out accumulated plastic stifling the environment, the use of which could have been avoided, will far outweigh the temporary loss from the clampdown on this pollution-causing industry. The menace of single-use plastic is known and felt too well. The issue is not so much about the discontinuation of plastic from common use, but the actual concern is the availability of option to replace plastic in a manner that this fundamental shift in basic practice does not affect people and their lives in any adverse way. For this, it is imperative that this resolve to ban single-use plastic be pursued with a multi-dimensional approach whereby a replacement is simultaneously prepared so as to seamlessly obliterate the greatest cause of pollution. One such initiative from Odisha comes as an example to emulate. The ban on single-use plastic in the forest-rich state has opened doors for the tribal community to thrive economically and empower themselves. About 5 million people in the state are involved in making single-use disposable plates from leaves using both hand and machine stitching methods. Mostly tribals, this focus on bring out for popular use alternate products is expected to bring increased income to those engaged in this business. Two major leaves of forest that they depend on for their earnings are sal and siali. The market value of Odisha’s leaf plate and cup market is said to be Rs 1,500 crore. 2.5 million people, most of whom are from tribal communities, are sal leaf pluckers, 1.5 million are siali leaf pluckers. Around one million are connected with other leaves for this purpose. Shifting focus to bio-degradable alternatives is the most obvious step in banning plastic from popular use. In 22 of the 30 districts of Odisha, residents of forest-fringe villages are traditionally involved in leaf-plate making. Along with counter-balancing the impact on the environment, the economic empowerment of people by this means is an encouraging assurance. Tribal women in some districts are known to have already formed federations to get a better deal in the trade. Economic empowerment is a fundamental component of development of a society and people. The next step to this is predictably education and means to invest in education from the result of economic development will further open many more doors for the common people to thrive and to prosper. In line with the engagement of tribal communities, Odisha government’s effort to launch a revamped Tribal Retail Outlet, ADISHA at the state capital is a necessary effort to and sale of tribal artifacts, and in the process, bring them to the mainstream with their distinctness and indigenous ideas that could be useful for the pervasive homogenised city culture. Promoting some of the original ways and practices of the tribals are important as not only are they in keeping with the government’s goal of inclusive development, but also because the tribal communities are very closely connected and associated with nature and their lives are shaped and regulated by the forests in many ways. Some of the vary basic lessons in sustainable growth are not novel innovative initiatives but simply the traditional ways of tribal life. Giving them the benefits they have been continually denied will serve the dual purpose of uplifting them, and considerably through them, the physical environment and thus everything else influenced by that. Roping in forest-dwelling communities extensively will make the accomplishment of this goal qualitatively better. The ban on single-use plastic is definitely not a one-way initiative and in order to make it effective and consequential, alternatives to seamlessly replace it are critical and decisive.