Forty-five-year-old Radhika Kanshakar, who runs a cold store at Koteshwor, was serving meat and fish items to her customers in polythene bags on Friday.
“This is the last bundle of polythene bags I have. I still have no idea how to package fish and meat items for my customers after this bundle is used up,” she said.
Many shopkeepers who sell meat, dairy products and fruits and vegetables are worried about packaging these items as the government has already banned plastic bags thinner than 40 microns in the Capital. Most of such shopkeepers said customers are asking for better alternatives to plastic bags, which are not available yet.
“My business has gone down in the past two days,” said Gyanendra Dahal, who runs a store selling dairy products at Tinkune. “Even wholesale stores that used to sell plastic bag thinner than 40 microns shut their business and started a protest,” he said, adding that he has been requesting his customers to come to the store with their own vessels. “But the customers return without purchasing anything. If this continues, I can’t continue paying Rs 12,000 in rent without minimum sale,” he said.
According to the Environment Department under the Ministry of Science, Technology and Environment, surveillance teams have been deployed at three major entry of the Valley and seized over 42 kilograms of polythene bags in the past four days. Responding to a query about the difficulties faced by the general public, the Department’s chief Suroj Pokharel said people who are used to living with polythene bags will face such problems for the time being. “People have to follow it as the government has announced that the Valley is a plastic bag-free zone,” he said.
However, despite the government’s announcement, many people throughout the city are still seen using polythene bags. Even shopkeepers and street vendors were found serving their goods on plastic bags on Friday.
“A jute or paper bag costs more than Rs 30 but the amount can buy two bundles of green vegetables for my family,” said Anju Magar, who was carrying handful of plastic bags filled with vegetables in Baneshwor.
Kathmandu Metropolis chief Purna Bhakta Tandukar said they still need a few months to completely ban plastic bags in the city. “Our role is to raise awareness among local residents. Laws alone don’t work until people feel morally accountable,” he said, requesting people use their own bags made up of paper or cloth.
In 2013 too, the metropolis had also decided to ban polythene bags in the Valley but failed after the Supreme Court gave a stay order in favour of the plastic manufacturers.
Entrepreneurs affiliated to Nepal Plastic Manufacturers’ Association took out a protest rally in the Capital on Friday demanding that government revoke its decision to ban plastic bags. The rally, participated by thousands of entrepreneurs, began from Bhrikutimandap and ended with a corner meet at Shanti Batika in Ratna Park.
“Investment worth billions of rupees is at stake here,” the association’s President Sharad Sharma said, adding that the government should either roll back the decision or provide them alternatives.
He said the Valley has around 100 factories manufacturing plastic bags. “Shutting them down will also have a negative multiplier effect on hundred more related businesses and render more than 20,000 people jobless,” he said.
The protesters also demanded that the Ministry of Industry should come to their rescue in the present situation. “We are prepared to launch a sterner agitation if our plight is not addressed,” Sharma said.