Bandel, July 5: A drive has been launched to make a 400-year-old church plastic bag-free by involving schoolchildren and authorities.
The church, built by the Portuguese, is frequented by tourists and picnickers throughout the year.
A team of officials from the state Pollution Control Board (PCB) recently raided shops around the church that were flouting standards laid down by the Union government and seized a large number of plastic bags.
The team raided 14 establishments near the church and 12 of them were found to be storing plastic bags thicker that the prescribed 20 microns or two-hundredths of a millimetre. “We have taken the bags for testing and if they are found to be above the prescribed thickness, action will be taken as per law,” a PCB engineer said.
Banned plastic bags cannot be used within 100 metres of the church, which was built in 1599 making it the oldest in Bengal.
PCB officials also held a round of talks with the church administration to chalk out a plan to implement the Recycled Plastics, Manufacture and Usage Rules, 1999. It states that flouting the rules even after a warning would entail a fine of Rs 1 lakh or jail up to five years.
“We welcome the PCB’s efforts to implement the ban, but the public needs to be made aware of the law. We have decided to rope in schoolchildren from the vicinity and set up camps along with representatives of the municipality, police, NGOs and the PCB,” said Father Thomas Pulickal.
PCB senior law officer Biswajit Mukherjee, who was present during the raids, said it was decided at the meeting that hoardings displaying the no-plastic policy would be put up by the church and the municipality.
“But what we are trying to really get going are the camps manned by schoolchildren during the tourist season. The children will collect plastic bags from the visitors and request them not to carry one the next time round and tell others about the rule,” Mukherjee said.
He said a plan would be chalked out in August, just before Durga puja, to meet the picnickers’ rush in winter.
Residents, however, complained that the raids had been carried out without notices being issued. “The PCB, instead of hauling us poor traders up for using these plastic bags, should go after the manufacturers who sell them to us claiming that they have been made according to the specifications. We cannot determine their thickness,” said shopowner Pankaj De.