The aim of making Bhutan a plastic-free country has not struck a chord with the people at large who still use plastic bags and pouches despite its ban.
Anyone taking a walk along the capitals commercial hub, Norzin Lam, at any time of the day, will observe that most shopkeepers and the consumers freely use plastic bags.
According to the director general of trade, Achyut Bhandari, the ban can only be effective if urban residents exercised their civic sense and considered it their duty to restrain from using plastic carry bags.
Continuous and full monitoring in all the shops is not possible, he said, adding that only a joint effort on the part of the concerned authorities and urban dwellers could preserve Bhutans pristine environment.
Under the existing rule, anybody caught violating the rule is liable to a fine of Nu 500, and Nu 1,000 if the offense is repeated. Revoking of business license is the last solution.
The experience so far proves that while it is too much to expect the ban to be total within a short span of time, a slight relaxation in monitoring would make Bhutans plastic free vision harder to achieve.
The rule, according to observers, was strictly followed for a month or two after the ban but was now being disregarded by most.
All the efforts made so far have not been in vain, of course. According to the Thimphu Thrompon, the use of plastic bags in the capital has been reduced by 50 percent since the ban. In Phuentsholing, there has been a similar reduction.
Before the ban 50 percent of the garbage used to be plastics but two years later it has come down to a few percentage, said Phuentsholing thrompon, Jochu Dorji. He added, however, that 100 percent ban was not possible due to the towns porous border with Jaigaon.
Taking the example of Samdrup Jongkhar, the first Bhutanese town to ban the use of plastic bags, Thimphu and Phuentsholing banned the use of plastic bags on June 2, 1999.
By Kinley Y. Dorji