Instead, Forest Advisory Committee calls for use of biodegradable bags

Polythene bags used to plant saplings in nurseries will no longer be allowed in government afforestation projects.

The Forest Advisory Committee (FAC), an apex body that decides on permitting the felling of trees in forests for industrial activities, recommended that “...State governments/ Union Territory administrations should ensure that the cost model prepared for CA /Penal CA shall incorporate the cost of alternative biodegradable bags in place of polythene bags.” This was decided at an FAC meeting on January 20.

CA refers to compensatory afforestation whereby industries must make good the forest loss by acquiring alternative land and paying the State forest department for planting trees.

The Government of India, in 2016, banned plastic bags having a thickness less than 50 microns, under the revised Plastic Waste Management Rules and several State governments have announced banning of polythene bags as well as some on single use plastics. On World Environment Day in 2018, India pledged to phase out single-use plastic by 2022 but last year, officials said no specific time line was in place.

Plastic waste

The Central Pollution Control Board in 2018-19 reported that India annually generates approximately 3.6 million tonnes of plastic waste. It recycles 60% of its waste, three times higher than the global average of 20% , through a chain of informal networks of collectors and recyclers. However, environmentalist group Toxics Link, in a report released on Wednesday, said the number could be almost three times of this. “Environmental impacts of plastics have been consistently downplayed by interested parties and only projected plastics as a simple waste issue thus steering clear from owning responsibility for its adverse impacts,” said Satish Sinha, Associate Director, Toxics Link.

Source of funds

The Compensatory Afforestaton Fund, under which money is collected from projects proponents for diverting forest land to be used for non-forestry activity, is a key source of funds for tree plantation. An amount of ₹47,436 crore was sent out to States for carrying out compensatory afforestation activities as of August 2019.

Source: February 19, 2020, The Hindu