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Tuesday, 1 January, 2002, 16:16 GMT
Bangladesh bans polythene
Dhaka has severe environmental problems
By the BBC's Moazzem Hossain in Dhaka

The Bangladesh Government has begun enforcing a complete ban on the sale and use of polythene bags in the capital, Dhaka.

Environment Minister Shahajahan Siraj says the decision has been taken to save the city from an imminent environmental disaster.

Environmental groups say the millions of polythene bags disposed of everyday are clogging Dhaka's drainage system, posing a serious environmental hazard.

Polythene shopping bags were introduced into Bangladesh nearly two decades ago, quickly replacing jute bags traditionally in use in every household of Bangladesh.

Overcrowded

A recent study says that in Dhaka an average household uses about four polythene bags a day.

Everyday, nearly 10 million polythene bags are disposed of by Dhaka residents.


Environmental groups say that without tougher environmental legislation it will be very difficult for the government to attain any success in its fight against polythene

These discarded polythene bags have posed a new environmental threat for an overcrowded city which is already suffering from high levels of air pollution and other kinds of environmental hazards.

The government's decision to ban polythene was generally welcomed by the public, but environmental groups are doubtful how far the government will go to implement the decision.

The Environment Ministry has launched a massive publicity campaign to persuade the public not to use polythene bags.

Environment Minister Shahajahan Siraj says the campaign has been successful in raising the awareness of the public about the hazards of the bags.

Mr Siraj says they are promoting jute bags as an alternative to polythene and people have responded positively.

Production ban

Despite the campaign, a large number of Dhaka residents were seen on Tuesday using polythene bags which they say are user friendly and cheaper.

Environmental groups say that, without tougher environmental legislation, it will be very difficult for the government to attain any success in its fight against polythene.

Mr Siraj said the government would propose a bill in the next session of the parliament to ban the production of polythene bags.

He warned the measure could take some time as they had to think of alternative employment for nearly 18,000 workers now employed in the industry.

See also:

24 Apr 00 | South Asia
Gas for Bangladesh's rickshaws
11 Oct 99 | South Asia
Bangladesh running out of space
09 Oct 98 | South Asia
Delhi chokes under pollution
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