The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Civic script for plastic straw swansong

The civic authorities are set to slap a ban on the use of non-bio-degradable straws made of polythene for sipping soft drinks and daab (green coconuts).

“These straws have proved a real menace to the city’s conservancy and drainage services and I am writing to municipal affairs minister Asok Bhattacharya for necessary action,” mayor Subrata Mukherjee said on Friday.

The proposal, in the process of being drafted, states that soft-drink vendors and daab-sellers will be held responsible for the use of polythene straws in future. They must, instead, use bio-degradable, paper-based straws.

There are over a lakh vendors of soft drinks and sellers of green coconut all over the city. According to civic estimates, more than 25 lakh straws are discarded by consumers daily. At least 80 per cent of these straws find their way into the drains, blocking the sewer lines.

The effects of the straw-jam are felt most during the monsoon, as it aggravates waterlogging after every heavy shower.

“The problem with these polythene straws is that they never decay on their own with the passage of time,” pointed out chief engineer (conservancy) Arun Sarkar. Like the straws, the thin plastic cups used by the tea and coffee vendors also pose a threat to the drainage system.

“The problem with these plastic cups is that they fly and float. Hence, they spread out over a larger area when the wind picks up and clog drains by drifting into gully-pits after every shower,” added Sarkar.

Ragpickers, too, refuse to pick up such ‘featherweight’ trash, as it fetches almost nothing when resold to a scrap dealer.

Mayor Mukherjee, meanwhile, asked the conservancy department to take urgent steps to clean up the Esplanade-Chowri-nghee area. Three special teams have been set up under Borough VI district conservancy officer Swapan Mahapatra. The clean-up teams have planned a crackdown from Monday to stop littering of roads, spitting in public and urinating in the open, Mahapatra claimed.

Target Zone One will be the Lenin Sarani-Bentinck Street-Lindsay Street stretch.

The civic officials will not fine the offenders for the first three days. “They will be warned not to repeat the offence, as it would subsequently draw a penalty,” said Mahapatra.

The Calcutta Municipal Corporation (CMC), officials said, would collect Rs 6 lakh annually as fines from people caught “committing nuisance” in public.

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