446 complaints in 7 months on app to register complaints means awareness on existence of such facility is low, say experts
Bengaluru has fallen short in registering complaints against banned single-use plastic (SUP) items, with only 446 complaints recorded between September 2022 and March 2023 on the Central Pollution Control Board’s (CPCB) mobile app. An implementation status report by the Centre for Science and Environment (CSE) reveals that Bengaluru secured the second spot in the nation for the highest number of complaints against these prohibited products, trailing behind Delhi.
Solid waste management volunteers in the city, however, assert that the mere 446 complaints reflect a lack of awareness among citizens about the application’s existence.
“Just 446 complaints over seven months is a low number. Though this is a national portal and many may not be aware of it, only a minority of citizens reach out to BBMP’s Sahaaya app to get redressal for civic or other issues. Such apps in general could be a powerful medium to close issues that plague our cities if the resolution is timely,” said Odette Katrak, co-founder of Beautiful Bharat, a volunteer group pushing for a plastic-free and clean city.
CPCB came up with a digital intervention in the form of this application to increase the efficacy of the SUP ban by creating a monitoring mechanism and encouraging citizen participation.
The pollution watchdog launched the SUP public grievance redressal mobile application in April 2022, before implementing the ban on July 1 of that year. The application was designed to allow reporting of the manufacture, production, stocking, sale, or usage of banned SUP items. The app also has geotagging features that can be used by reporters to lodge and track complaints if they come across banned SUP items in their locality.
The report also highlights that while uptake of the application was low all across the country, there was a big gap between the number of complaints received and the number of complaints that were redressed. While citizens reported 446 complaints against banned SUP, only 242 complaints were attended to. The report was prepared to understand citizen involvement and ground-level implementation of the ban.
The Ministry of Environment Forest and Climate Change (MOEFCC) enforced the ban on a total of 19 SUP items, subjecting individuals caught using, selling, manufacturing, distributing, importing, or stocking these products to penalties. Following the ban, the Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike (BBMP) intensified its vigilance efforts. Between July 1, 2022, and June 21, 2023, the BBMP reported collecting over Rs 13 crore in fines and confiscating 60,000 kg of banned plastic items.
However, despite these measures, banned items continue to be used widely across the city. Solid waste management experts argue that while apps can contribute to effective rule enforcement, the ultimate solution lies in the immediate closure of manufacturers and penalties for wholesalers to prevent banned items from entering the market.