Another former Environment Minister Ganesh Shah admits that he tried but failed to implement the plastic ban in 2008. While being involved in a Bagmati solid waste cleanup campaign, Shah realised that plastic bags constituted a large portion of the city’s non-biodegradable waste. In fact, Kathmandu Valley today produces more than 500 tons of plastic waste a day.
Former ministers, secretaries and other bureaucrats in the Environment Ministry interviewed for this article all confirmed that their initiatives to ban the production of plastic bags were sabotaged by industrialists who enjoyed political protection.
“They used all kinds of pressure and inducements to ensure that the plastic ban was not implemented,” says former minister Manandhar. “I experienced the coercion myself during my tenure.” He suspects that officials of his own ministry involved in formulating a plastic bag ban directive in 2011 were conspiring to allow loopholes.
Durga Prasad Dawadi, who is now Director General of the Department of Environment, says every time a minister started talking about a plastic ban to reduce the garbage burden, somehow the businessmen would get wind of it and arrive at the ministry with large delegations. He says the pressure also came from political party leaders.
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Just a fortnight ago, four businessmen came to his office with a recommendation from the Maoist Minister of Forests and Environment Shakti Basnet to clear 16 truckloads of waste cotton from Bangladesh stopped at Jhapa customs.
“I said I could not clear something harmful to the environment, and they threatened me. They said they would teach me a lesson for not obeying the minister,” Dawadi recalls. He says similar tactics were used to revoke plastic bans in the past.