Even before the ban on use of plastic bags from April 1, omes into effect, Samdrupjongkhar thromde is already reinforcing the ban along with awareness programmes.

Thromde officials have started seizing plastic bags and doma wrappers from people. Locals are being sensitised on the plastic ban through a local channel since a week ago.

The thromde recently organised cleaning campaigns in and around the town with help from volunteers.

Samdrupjongkhar thromde banned the sale of plastic bags and ice cream pouches in 2016. However, thromde officials said the 2016 ban could not be effective because of lack of enforcement.

“It was unsuccessful because we lack manpower. But it wasn’t a 100 percent failure,” an official said.

Thromde’s executive secretary, Tougay Choedup, said officials will have to only monitor carry bags and doma wrappers as people do not use ice cream pouches. Packing plastics, he said, will be allowed.

The thromde has deployed officials at the border gate to monitor the carry bags and doma wrappers. Most of the plastic bags come from Mela bazar and Garage in Assam.

Thromde will penalize shopkeepers if they are found selling plastic bags, he said.

“We haven’t formed a strategic monitoring team, but we will carry out surprise checking programmes. We are also encouraging the vegetable and doma vendors to use banana leaves to wrap doma, cheese and butter among other things,” Tougay Choedup said.

Some of the shopkeepers Kuensel talked to said that there was no harm in allowing them to sell plastic bags if they are put to proper use and disposed properly. “Authorities should ban the import of fast-foods packed in plastic as it affects the environment most,” a shopkeeper said.

Tougay Choedup clarified the use of plastic for packing vegetables and local products such as cheese, beaten maize and will be allowed. According to him, customers will not be penalised for carrying plastic bags.

He said that the thromde will encourage shopkeepers and vendors to reduce import of fast-food because of their impact on consumers’ health. “Increasing their price and imposing higher taxes may be the only solution to stop the import of such products.”

The thromde last year signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with regional offices and agencies to replace the use of plastic cups and plates.

However, Thrompon Karma Sherab Thogyel said the thromde relied on trust and didn’t monitor if the agencies and regional offices complied with the MoU.

The agencies would be penalized for violation of the MoU. “We have also told shopkeepers not to sell those products.”

Kelzang Wangchuk  | Samdrupjongkhar