Vasco, May 22: ‘It’s Goa’s first plastic free area’, proudly states the MMC Chief Officer, Elvis Gomes. Indeed, Vasco has been the first council to implement the ‘Zero Garbage Town Scheme’ following a high court judgment in late 2003. While it certainly took its time coming, the scheme was finally launched on the January 26, 2006, following the take over of Gomes as Chief Officer of the MMC.
The denizens were made aware of the upcoming ban on plastics at a public meeting organized by the council early in the year. Despite this however, envisaging the difficulty that the ban would bring with it, the MMC went step farther and distributed jute and paper bags free of cost during the initial period of the ban.
Informs Celsa Antao of the Community Development Society, ‘following a collaboration with the Goa Dairy, citizens are now awarded one litre of milk free of charge for every 100 empty milk packets returned to the 10 allocated booths in the city.
Similarly, half a litre of milk is given for every 50 empty milk packets returned’.
In a step that will both, generate employment as well as ensure that citizens are not forced to go to any extra lengths, the MMC has employed 20 women living below the poverty line to collect plastics in the three areas of the taluka currently under the novel system, namely Vasco city, Shantinagar and New Vaddem.
In addition, the women are also paid Rs 2 for every kg of empty palm oil packets that they collect.
‘This generally allows them to earn around Rs. 40/- per day’, adds Antao.
This jurisdiction also has the distinction of having the only garbage treatment plant in the State, which is situated at Headland Sada. It is here that organic matter is turned into manure and the segregated plastics are dumped at a landfill site. Incidentally, the plant is the first public-private partnership of its kind, being a joint venture of the MMC as well as an NGO.
The ban on plastics has been enforced in all seriousness, with the MMC having penalized 20 shops for violating this rule till date and the business establishments, it appears, are following this rule judiciously.
Says Gopinath Naik of ‘La Paz Gardens’, ‘we now use aluminum containers and paper bags to parcel food instead of the plastic bags that were being used earlier.
Preti Jari, the owner of ‘Chic and Fish’ who feels that the ban has contributed greatly to a ‘cleaner city and a healthier environment’, echoes his sentiments. ‘The difficulty though, is the availability of alternatives, especially to replace garbage bags’, laments Naik.
A major problem facing the council however, is the severe dearth of land to serve as dumping sites, and that has yet to see a favourable solution.
Another issue it seems, that requires immediate attention is the lack of awareness of this scheme among the residents of the town. It is certainly a cause for concern that a number of residents, when questioned, were found to be ignorant of the scheme of milk packet collection.
The MMC on its part however, seems to have come up with an answer to this problem. Explains Elvis Gomes, ‘tenders have been floated for the appointment of an agency, which will systematically promote awareness among all the schools in the taluka by means of competitions and other such events from the new academic year’. The scheme, he farther stated, will be extended to Sada and in a year’s time the programme will cover all 20 wards of the jurisdiction.
While the success of this venture will depend largely on the general public, kudos to the MMC for taking the initiative to implement this much needed project, which will go a long way in ensuring a brighter tomorrow for the Port Town.