Saturday, February 14, 2015

Why is India promoting manufacture of plastics in the country? Is it a forward looking policy?

With the government's top priority bestowed on its "Make in India" policy, manufacturing sector is set to get all types of encouragement and proactive support from the government. A question that begs for an answer is whether the policy makers have selected the product basket for expanding production within the country or any one is welcome to manufacture any thing that will provide employment economic growth? This blogger is provoked to raise this issue because of a recent announcement by the plastic industry that special plastic "parks" are going to be established in the country for expanding production of fossil fuel based plastic materials in the next few years. This is a paradoxical situation when use of plastics is being curbed because of their indestructibility when disposed off in landfills, some times for almost 1000 years! If country had a plastic policy, at least there could have been a selection of types of products that are essential for sustaining the activities the products, mainly industrial items which will last for a long time, in stead of consumer items with short usage life. Definitely consumers must not be trusted to adopt recycling of plastic items at their end and proportion of consumer items must be progressively reduced as much as possible. Here is the report that boasts of quantum jump in plastics production through specialized parks across the country.

"All India Plastic Manufacturers Association (AIPMA) expects its under-construction plastic park in Dahej (Gujarat) to be operational in 2016. AIPMA is developing plastic parks across the country in a bid to promote plastic processing industry in the country. "AIPMA plans similar plastic parks in five states namely, Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, Karnataka and Gujarat," said Arvind Mehta, chairman, AIPMA governing council. The Dahej plastic park is coming up over 200 acres of land and is likely to house 150 companies, entailing an investment of around Rs 3,000 crore over the next few years. Together Gujarat and Daman-Silvassa region account for over 50 per cent of the country's polymer processing, and the park is expected to give a boost to this industry in the state. In addition, around 70 per cent of plastic raw material as well as 70 per cent of the plastic processing machinery is produced in Gujarat. According to AIPMA, the apex body and the largest industry association of the plastic industry in India, the plastic industry is poised to make significant contribution to various initiatives of the Union government and is focusing on developing skills and entrepreneurship. AIPMA said in a statement that most of the government initiatives such as Swachcha Bharat, 'More crop per drop of water', 'Housing for all', developing smart cities, cannot be implemented without using plastics and the industry has devised plans to promote its use to help Centre achieve its various goals. Rituraj Gupta, president, AIPMA, said, "The fact is plastic is a material that can be recycled for any number of times with varying end-uses and manufacturing of any product through it consumes less power. Thus, plastic is more environment-friendly." Gupta stated that the per capita consumption of plastic is only 9.7 kg per person in India while the global average is 27 kg. South Korea has the highest per capita plastic consumption of 100 kg per person".

Is it not a paradox that the world is moving towards a new plastics regime where bio-degradable plastics are replacing conventional plastics as most of us know, India is least concerned about the dangers posed by the latter in terms of health concerns and environmental degradation? There does not appear to be any concerted move to invest in developing new plastics from natural sources with high environmental credentials. There are hundreds of universities and research institutions in the country capable of working on plastic materials but they all lack a direction and a national mandate. It is time that government of India comes out with a National Plastics Policy and a dedicated "Mission" to transform the plastic landscape in the country into a more sustainable one, in stead of encouraging expansion of conventional plastics indiscriminately.. 


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