Plastic Ban Imposed in 27 Villages of Girnar: High Court Issues Order

Advocate Amit Panchal filed a public interest litigation in the Gujarat High Court regarding the pollution caused by waste near the Ambaji Temple and the Dattatreya Temple located on the Girnar mountain. Today, Chief Justice Sunita Agrawal and Justice Aniruddh Mayee heard the plea in front of the bench. As per the latest orders of the High Court, the Principal Secretary of the Forest and Environment Ministry filed an affidavit. A meeting of the Gir Ico-sensitive Zone Monitoring Committee chaired by the Junagadh Collector was held on February 23rd. It was decided in the meeting to impose a complete ban on plastic in the Girnar’s 27 villages and the ESZ entry points.

Three teams deployed at Ambaji, Dattatreya, and Datar entry points

Plastic is now completely banned on the entry points of the 27 villages of Girnar and ESZ. Six teams have been formed for monitoring and action. While three teams will be stationed at the Ambaji, Dattatreya, and Datar entry points, the other three teams will conduct patrolling. These teams will consist of officials from the Forest Department, Police, Panchayat, and JMC. Six cleaning workers will be deployed for cleanliness up to the Dattatreya Temple from Ambaji. A supervisor will oversee this task.

Court advises government to raise awareness

Fifteen workers from the Forest Department will be involved in cleaning up to Datar. 15-15 workers will clean both old and new stairs of the Ambaji Temple under the Gujarat Holy Yatra Development Board. Only water will be available in glass bottles, earthen pots, and tea cups. The government was advised by the court to raise awareness among the people. The court also suggested appointing environmentally conscious officers in the Gir Ico-sensitive Zone.

Announcement of plastic ban in Girnar ESZ

The court also observed the disposal of plastic bottles on Girnar mountain during the last hearing. The government was instructed to take action on this matter. The Court Commissioner will inspect cleanliness in the Girnar ESZ after a short period. With Mahashivratri approaching, more people will visit Girnar ESZ. At that time, there will be no provision to carry plastic in this area. Contracts will be awarded to contractors for regular cleaning under the Gujarat Holy Yatra Development Board.

Further hearing on March 20th

The Girnar ESZ Monitoring Committee met 18 times from 2016 to 2023. No action was taken regarding the plastic ban during these meetings. Officers who failed to perform their duties were transferred as per the court’s orders. The government will submit an action plan. Further hearing on this matter will take place on March 20th. During the previous hearing, the Junagadh District Collector filed an affidavit. The government’s lawyer informed the court that the Monitoring Committee has been active since 2016. According to the latest report, 12 tons of plastic waste was removed from Girnar mountain.

Ban Imposed on Plastics Below 50 Microns

The court inquired whether the committee has been functioning since 2016, and if so, what actions the committee took until now to address the issue of plastic waste and waste piled up on Girnar mountain. The resolutions passed by the committee were to be presented to the court. Furthermore, the High Court’s order was not just about disposing of waste but also restraining its accumulation, which was a rebuke to the government. The government’s counsel informed that a ban had been imposed on plastics below 50 microns. However, the government could not provide a clear answer.

No Permission for Any Kind of Mining

The government’s counsel informed the court that after 2016, the monitoring committee had met 18 times. It was emphasized that no industrial unit should operate if it poses a risk to Girnar’s ecosystem. No kind of mining activity will be permitted. Any type of industrial waste cannot be dumped in the eco-sensitive zone, among other issues brought before the court. The government had informed the court about imposing a ban on plastic bags’ usage. There was no mention of plastic bottles.

Court Demanded Answers from the Government

Advocate Amit Panchal informed the court that why the committee could not be formed for four years despite the notification issued by the central government in 2012. The government was demanded by the court to provide answers. However, the government had not provided any clear action plan regarding banning plastic bags and bottles’ usage. Though a ban on plastics below 120 microns was imposed in 2022, it meant that people could still use plastics above 120 microns. The court questioned why no concrete action had been taken regarding a complete ban on plastic in the eco-sensitive zone since the committee was formed in 2016.

Petitioner Drew Court’s Attention

The state government notified in 2019 about imposing a complete ban on plastics. The Gujarat Pavitra Yatradham Vikas Board is responsible for maintaining pilgrimage sites. As per this, people initially collect waste, and it is later disposed of. The petitioner drew the court’s attention to the fact that a year has passed since the petition was filed.

Assurance Given to Take Proper Action

The court had ordered the Additional Chief Secretary of the Forest and Environment Department to file an affidavit after rejecting the collector’s affidavit. Furthermore, the committee was also directed to investigate the collector’s actions. It was noted by the court that the notification banning plastic, issued by the collector in 2023, had expired. It had a time limit. Therefore, until the time indicated in the notification elapsed, the complete ban on plastic could not be enforced. Due to the deadline mentioned in the notification, the Collector had filed an appeal in court stating that the religious sentiments of the pilgrims were not hurt, so a complete ban on plastic was not imposed. Consequently, the Additional Advocate General assured the court that appropriate action would be taken by the Collector.

Proposal Made by the Government to Provide Glass Bottles

Previously, the government had announced in its resolutions that a ban on plastic had been imposed in this area. The court stated that simply imposing a ban on plastic would not suffice; alternative options for plastic should be provided. Gujarat is known for offering alternative solutions. Therefore, a proposal was made by the government to provide glass bottles.

Request for Blue Print Regarding Cleanliness

The court stated that steel bottles should be provided. Along with that, a token amount should be taken, and arrangements should be made for drinking water on the roads. When travelers return the bottle, they should be reimbursed the token amount plus another coin. If a plastic water bottle costs 30 rupees, then the government would charge a fee of 10 rupees for a token of a steel bottle. The Junagadh Collector should work on this issue, and not only the government level but also at the collector level, work should be done. A committee should be formed for this purpose, without involving all the court commissioners.

High Court Informed Lawyers to Prepare Report on Site

It is noteworthy that the Ambaji and Datt Mandirs in Girnar come under the jurisdiction of the Junagadh District Collector. Earlier, photos of pollution in these religious places had been presented to the court. Plastic waste is also a major problem in these places. Therefore, a report on cleanliness should be prepared by an independent agency under the jurisdiction of the court. For this reason, the High Court informed Lawyer Devangi Solanki to go there and prepare the report. Along with this, the Junagadh Collector was informed to assist Devangi in cleaning the plastic waste.

Volunteers Can Collect Plastic

Local authorities have manpower and resources for this cleaning work. While cleaning certain areas in the mountains is risky. The court said that a ban on taking plastic to these areas should also be imposed. People should not be allowed to litter plastic bottles wherever they go. Therefore, volunteers can collect plastic.

Court Informed Local People to be Aware

A ban should also be imposed on disposable items along with plastic in these areas. Because people also throw them wherever they go. It is necessary to find alternatives to these useful items. Also, garbage bins should be placed here. Moreover, people should be required to drink water from their hands like at airports, without providing plastic, paper, or disposable cups. Additionally, the court informed local people to be aware. As these are the homes of deities and enthusiasm should be increased here by not littering garbage.

Niyati Rao

Niyati Rao is a seasoned writer and avid consumer who specializes in crafting informative and engaging articles and product reviews. With a passion for research and a knack for finding the best deals, Niyati enjoys helping readers make informed decisions about their purchases.