Media Coverage – The New Age Bangladesh: The government in the proposed 2022-23 budget has planned to withdraw the prevailing 5 per cent duties on polythene and plastic, although the green activists have called for an imposition of environment tax in addition to the prevailing taxes and their use has continued to rise despite a government ban being in effect since 2002 on polythene bags.
Green activists fear that due to the withdrawal of the duty, the price of polythene and plastic, both hazardous for environment and human health for the lack of proper management, will fall and their use will rise further.
‘The duty free plastic policy contradicts the government’s pledge to eradicate the use of polythene and plastic,’ said Poribesh Bachao Andolan chairman Abu Naser Khan on Friday.
He said that green activists hoped that the government would increase tax on environmentally hazardous goods and offer a tax rebate on green products but instead the government had done the opposite, frustrating them.
Bangladesh Poribesh Andolon joint secretary Ahmed Kamruzzaman Majumder said that both polythene and plastic caused heavy soil, water and air pollution, creating many civic problems.
‘So the government should impose high tax on polythene and plastic and subsidise green products,’ he said.
‘Any deduction of prices of something always encourages people to use the items,’ he said.
Finance minister AHM Mustafa Kamal on Thursday placed the total budget of Tk 6,78,064 crore in the parliament with an allocation of Tk 1,501 crore for the environment ministry increasing it from Tk 1,221 crore in the outgoing fiscal.
However, the revised allocation was Tk 1,222 crore in the outgoing year.
Mustafa Kamal in his budget speech said that considering the immense importance of environmental protection, the government had made it mandatory to follow a pragmatic and inclusive environment-friendly plan in all development activities while addressing the risks of climate change.
There is, the minister said, no alternative to increasing the productivity of the industrial sector and improving the quality of manufactured goods to maintain the pace of development for a sustainable, universal, and environment-friendly economic development in the continuance of the development achieved in the past decades.
Environmentalists say that plastic can exist in soil and water for a long time as it is not biodegradable and it may turn into leachate and, through heat, get mixed with the food chain and enter human body causing diseases and, eventually, deaths.
It also gradually gets divided into very small particles and get back to animal body through their food chain.
A World Bank report published in December 2021 said that per capita plastic consumption tripled in Bangladesh in the past 15 years.
According to the report, the average plastic consumption in urban areas was 3.01 kilograms in 2005, which rose to 9 kg in 2020.
In Dhaka, per capita plastic consumption increased to 22.25 kg in 2020 from 9.2 kg in 2005.
The report said that 70 per cent of the plastic waste was mismanaged and a significant amount littered the rivers and water bodies and finally pollute the ocean.
Annually 87,000 tonnes of single-use plastic containers are thrown away in Bangladesh, according to a 2018-19 study conducted by the Environment and Social Development Organisation.
The study, titled Single Use Plastic: Hidden costs of Health and Environment in Bangladesh, was carried out in the capital and the cities of Chattogram, Rajshahi and Sylhet and their outskirts.
ESDO executive director Siddika Sultana said that the government in 2021 also banned single-use plastic in coastal districts and adopted a plan to phase out its use.
‘We expect a responsible decision from the government regarding the items that pollute environment and harm health,’ he said.
Green activists asked the government to impose health and environment tax on the items in addition to the regular duties.