Over two months after a blanket ban on use of plastic bags was imposed, traders across the national capital have been flouting it, thanks to slack enforcement and lack of a cost effective alternative.
The Delhi government had imposed a blanket ban on manufacture, sale, storage and use of plastic bags on November 24 and had warned the violators of stiff penalty including imprisonment up to five years as per provision of the Environment (Protection) Act, 1986,
Officials in the Environment department, which was tasked to enforce the ban in cooperation with civic agencies, said shortage of enforcement staff and resistance from local politicians have come in the way of enforcing the ban.
"We are not being able to enforce the ban due to shortage of manpower," they said.
However they claimed most of the shopping malls and retail chains have already stopped giving plastic bags to their customers.
When asked, representatives of various market associations said "government's failure" to provide a cost effective alternative to plastic bag has forced the retail traders to continue using it.
"The paper bags and jute bags are costly. We can use them but then the customer will have to pay for it," said a trader.
The government had also banned use of plastic cover or pouch to pack magazines, invitation cards and greeting cards
As per the government order, no person including shopkeepers, vendors, wholesalers, retailers and hawkers will be allowed to sell, store or use plastic carry bags for supply of any goods.
Plastic carry bags for use, as specified under the BioMedical Waste (Management and Handling) Rules, 1998, was not covered under the ban.
The Delhi Government had in October even ordered traders involved in production of plastic bags to dismantle their manufacturing facilities. The manufacturers had gone to Delhi High Court challenging the notification.
According to industry sources, around 400 plastic bag manufacturing units were operating in the city and the total yearly turnover of these units was in the range of Rs 800 crore to Rs 1,000 crore.
In 2009, the government exercising provisions of Delhi Degradable Plastic Bags (Manufacturing, Sales and Usage) and Garbage (Controlled) Act 2000, had forbidden sale, storage and use of all kinds of plastic bags in certain notified places.
These included luxury hotels, hospitals, restaurants, all fruits and vegetable outlets of Mother Dairy, liquor vends, shopping malls, local shopping centres and all retail and wholesale outlets of branded chains selling different consumer products. The ban, however, did not produce the desired result.
The government last year decided to go for total ban on plastic bags as the one imposed in 2009 did not include manufacturing activities.