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November 19th, 2012:

Delhi’s blanket ban on plastic bags

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In Delhi, a blanket ban on plastic bags starts this week. The latest effort by Delhi would mark the first time a city in India is enforcing a blanket ban on plastic bags within its territory. New York Times . 19 November 2012.


NEW DELHI–Babu Dayal sells fruit in front of the 3Cs Cineplex in Lajpat Nagar, New Delhi. When a customer buys a kilogram of bananas or half a kilo of apples from him, he hands them over in a plastic bag. But starting Nov. 23, Mr. Dayal will have to hope his customers have their own bags, as the Delhi government will begin enforcing a ban on the manufacture, import, sale, storage and use of plastic bags, sheets, films or tubs.

The last time the city government tried to ban stores from giving carry-out plastic bags was in 2009, a move that proved woefully ineffective, and was roundly criticized by the industry (maybe it didn’t help that the city also held a convention to celebrate the use of plastic at the same time.)

Despite that setback, the case for reducing Delhi’s reliance on plastic bags is undeniable: the capital produces 250,000 tons of plastic waste every year, and a huge chunk of it comes from Delhi’s 14 million households, which use about five carry-out plastic bags a day, according to the city government.

The latest effort by Delhi would mark the first time a city in India is enforcing a blanket ban on plastic bags within its territory. The ban in 2009 allowed the use of biodegradable plastic of 40 microns or thicker, under the theory that heavy-duty plastic bags are used again and again, not disposed of. But the newest ban extends to all varieties of plastic bags, even those for garbage. (City government officials say they will think about how to deal with waste disposal later.) The only exception is for the bags used for biomedical waste.

The ban is being enforced under the Environment (Protection) Act of 1986, which carries a maximum penalty of 100,000 rupees, and five years of imprisonment.

However, Sandeep Mishra, additional secretary of the environment for the city government, said the city plans to only fine the users and the shops that distribute plastic bags nominally, though he did not give exact details. “It takes time for it to sink in,” he said.

Enforcement will involve a government-wide effort, he said. “We will rope in the police department, food and sales division and labor inspectors to enforce the ban,” he said.

Mr. Mishra said that the stricter plastic ban was necessary, in part because of the failure of the last partial ban. “It was almost impossible to enforce the ban last time around as everyone claimed they were using the bags that were allowed,” he said.

This time the ban extends to the manufacturing of plastic bags and tubs in Delhi as well. Anti-plastic activists say this won’t have an impact on commerce. “If products are produced, they will find a way to be sold,” said Prashant Rajenkar, senior program coordinator at the nonprofit Toxics Link.

Under the 2009 ban, thin plastic bags vanished from shopping malls, big retail outlets and government-run retail outlets, but were still available at smaller stores and used for garbage disposal.

The new ban is giving sleepless nights to plastic bag manufacturers in Delhi, who have petitioned the Delhi High Court to block it. The High Court has issued notices to the central government, the Delhi city government, the three municipal corporations of Delhi and the Delhi Pollution Control Committee, asking them to respond to a petition by the All India Plastic Industries Association by Nov. 23, the same day that the ban goes into effect.

However, the government is confident that the courts would not get in the way of the city’s efforts to reduce plastic bag use. “Whenever we fight for an environmental cause, the courts have been in our favor,” said Mr. Mishra.

Government officials are also planning to start an awareness campaign about the separation and recycling of waste, using social networking sites, and will hand out a limited number of jute and cloth shopping bags to select Resident Welfare Associations.

Despite all the efforts, Mr. Rajenkar of Toxics Link said the ban may not work as well as the environmental advocates hope. “Plastic bags are very convenient, and unless there is an equally attractive alternative, people might not give it up completely,” he said.

Mr. Dayal, the fruit seller, agreed. Most of his customers buy his products on their way back home, he said, and they don’t remember to carry cloth bags with them. If it is deemed illegal for him to hand out plastic bags, he said, then he might offer a small bribe to the local policeman and continue to use the plastic bags.

Can C.Y. Leung and Carrie Lam shake officials into action on air pollution?


Submitted by admin on Nov 19th 2012, 12:00am

Comment›Insight & Opinion

Mayling Chan

Mayling Chan says it will take more than just political will at the top to improve Hong Kong’s air quality; everyone in society, including intransigent civil servants and lawmakers, needs to be on board

The Environmental Protection Department last month announced that the city had achieved its overall clean-air targets under a joint scheme with Guangdong province, citing the results of an air pollution inventory. The Audit Commission report released last week, however, painted a gloomier picture than expected, saying that the existing air-quality objectives had never been fully achieved since they were introduced in 1987.

Sadly, since 2006, the department has never met its target for the Air Pollution Index of not exceeding the “very high” level of 100 on any day in a year. And the number of days in a year with excessive pollution has risen from 74 in 2007 to 175 last year.

Taking a more holistic perspective, the report put both the Transport and Housing Bureau and the Environmental Protection Department on the spot for not imposing stricter fuel standards on ocean-going and local vessels.

Although the report came as a surprise to many, it would not have been a shock for Wong Kam-sing, the Environment Secretary, who just four months into his term told some green groups frankly that the take-up rate had been low – a mere 10 per cent – for the scheme to replace commercial diesel vehicles. Hence, it was not expected to be effective.

There are still some 50,000 highly polluting vehicles on our roads, including 17,000 diesel vehicles that are more than 17 years old. This is why Wong sounded out the option of phasing out commercial diesel vehicles when they are 15 years old, to tackle our health-threatening roadside pollution. As environment undersecretary Christine Loh Kung-wai said, such an achievable solution was “low-hanging fruit” that would provide an immediate improvement.

We have sufficient reason to believe that both Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying and Chief Secretary Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor have the political will to protect public health.

Leung mentioned the health impacts of harmful emissions from vehicles and ships in his speech to the Legislative Council in October, and in his inaugural speech on July 1 he emphasised that his team needed to “address issues from a high-level perspective and with inter-departmental and cross-sector collaboration”, indicating that red tape and a silo mentality work against the political will to improve our living conditions.

Even Lam, in her consultation session with green groups this month, assured attendees that she was on top of a co- ordinating mission to tackle the health effects of roadside pollution.

So, what is missing if we have the high-level political will? Can red tape be such a formidable obstacle?

In the last administration, a proposal was tabled for low-emission zones in Central, Mong Kok and Causeway Bay, with the idea being that high-emission buses and vehicles could be barred from entering these areas. However, this plan required collaboration with the Transport Department, so it is yet to be realised.

But, what if past negative examples could be overcome? What if, under Lam’s leadership, the tendency of bureaucracies to prohibit co-operation between departments could be gradually substituted for a reformed culture with a sense of collective mission and accountability within the administration? The whole of society would benefit through a reduced risk of cardio-pulmonary illness associated with air pollution and the lower financial burden on the taxpayer-funded health care system.

Drivers and passengers surely also want their health protected. In July, we measured the fine particles inside Hong Kong buses in various districts and found that the average hourly concentration reached 53.11 micrograms per cubic metre. That is more than twice the 25 micrograms per cubic metre recommended by the World Health Organisation.

Another question has to be: which stakeholders are willing to sacrifice public and individual health for something else? Our lawmakers, for example? Will they sacrifice public health for votes from some of their specific constituencies?

Or will they share a collective vision for our city? We do not know yet; we must put it to the test. We cannot succeed in protecting our own health if we lack the political will to do so.

Now that the government has a correct diagnosis and an effective prescription for improving Hong Kong’s air quality, will they approve the appropriate legislation and necessary finances?

Let’s hope the whole of society is committed to a significant change and that when the Audit Commission does another body-check in two years’ time, it will find that our world-class city can match that reputation with world-quality air.

Mayling Chan is CEO of Friends of the Earth (HK)


Air Pollution



Leung Chun-Ying

Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-Ngor

Wong Kam-sing

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New Book Sparks Climate Suit Against The Netherlands

New Book Sparks Climate Suit Against The Netherlands

November 17, 2012 By Joshua S Hill Leave a Comment

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New Book Sparks Climate Lawsuit
A new Dutch book written by ‘the climate-lawyer’ Roger H.J. Cox has sparked a lawsuit being filed against the Dutch government, claiming that the Netherlands is under a legal obligation to reduce its CO2 emissions by as much as 40% by 2020 and up to 95% by 2050.

The book provided not only the impetus but a blueprint for such lawsuits, and a call for similar suits to be levied against many other Western nations.

The book is backed by world-renowned American climate scientist James Hansen, who was the first to receive an English translation of the work at the book’s launch in The Hague. Author and Dutch attorney Roger H.J. Cox thinks reaching a wider audience with the English translation is important: “Multiple climate cases throughout Europe and in other Western countries will speed up the process toward an energy revolution that is demanded by citizens. This is why we worked hard to make the translation available as soon as possible, so potential petitioners in other countries can use it as a working document for their climate suits.”

“In the climate and energy debate we need more pressure and involvement from the public, willing to defend our rights and those of our children and grandchildren using all the means of our laws to achieve justice,” added Hansen.

Author Cox argues that without the legal intervention outlined in the text, Western nations are at risk of “committing domestic human rights violations on a scale nobody had thought to ever see again after World War II.”

With the fast-paced readability of a crime novel, Revolution Justified leaves no room for reassuring doubt or denial about the huge societal challenges of oil decline, climate change and the failure of democracy. Meticulously substantiated with a wide array of international scientific, journalistic and even military sources, the text draws readers into a tightening stranglehold that eases only in the final section. Here, the reader learns how the judiciary may yet rescue the climate and break through the status quo in the energy world to prevent the literal downfall of Western society.

The book can be purchased from the website RevolutionJustified.
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