Blocked drains mean end for plastic bags in Mumbai

Plastic bags could be phased out in the Indian state of Maharashtra after countless complaints that they exacerbated the floods that laid Mumbai low in July.

Following the deluge the authorities were flooded with complaints from both the public and those tasked with clearing the water, saying plastic carrier bags had choked drains and stopped the flow.

Chief minister Vilasrao Deshmukh made the announcement that disposable plastic bags would be phased out, with traders facing fines of up to 5,000 rupees, approximately £65, while individuals could be fined 1,000 rupees if caught using them.

“Mumbai city alone suffered losses of around Rs 3,000 to Rs 4,000 crore [approximately £450 million], including damages to railway, transport infrastructure, life and property, in the recent floods due to choking of drains because of plastic bags, which also had its effect on public health,” Mr Deshmukh said.

Sceptics will point to a similar pledge in 1998, however, when the authorities promised a ban following severe monsoons, only to retract the idea after lobbyists within the plastics industry complained it would be bad for business.

The Maharashtra State Government could be emboldened, however, by equivalent bans in Bangladesh and also in a handful of tourism-reliant Indian states concerned about littered bags becoming eyesores.

The government opened a 30-day consultation period for the new law on Wednesday, August 24 to give industry a chance to argue its case and promote alternatives.

At the end of this period a final decision will be made.

By Sam Bond

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