Inching Towards A Plastic Free Odisha: Keonjhar Admin Shows the Way

Keonjhar: The environmental impacts of using plastic have forced mankind to think for a transition to eco-friendly alternatives that can help save the environment. Governments all round are well aware of the situation and taking steps to curb the massive use of this synthetic poison that has been posing serious dangers to the globe today. The Government of Odisha has set an ambitious target to minimize the use of plastic by banning single use plastic in all the urban local bodies of the state from October 2nd this year. Earlier the government had implemented the ban in six major cities that had a mixed result. The need has also resulted in finding for eco-friendly alternatives that can be adopted to minimize the use  of plastics.

Following the call given by the Government of Odisha to ban use of single use plastic, the district administration of Keonjhar has come up with a unique alternative that will not only have a positive impact to the environment, but also help thousands of marginal workers engaged in the rural hinterlands.

The district administration has decided to use the naturally abundant Sal Tree leaves to serve food during official meetings and functions. It has already initiated the process and has seen wide acclamation. Recently participants attending the Keonjhar district review meeting were in for a surprise when they were served snacks in small plates made of Sal Leaves. The meeting was attended by ministers, people’s representatives, senior officials and district administration officers. The action of the administration not only brought smile in the faces of the participants but also made them to think about the initiative and implement it in their respective areas.

The use of Sal Leaves instead of plastic has wide ramifications. While it will help conserve the environment, it will also help the thousands of marginal poor workers whose livelihood depends on the collection of Sal Leaves. Keonjhar district is covered in dense Sal forests and more than two lakh people depend on the forests. The Sal leaf plates and cups manufactured in Keonjhar are popular not only in Odisha but in the neighboring states also. Officially using the Sal leaves will give a strong signal to others who will adopt the change seriously.

The initiative is going to bring a change in the lives of these small and marginal forest workers whose income will definitely increase. What is of importance is the thousands of Self Help Groups in the forest areas will get a steady flow of orders and income through this. The DRDA in association with the SHGs can change the scenario of the SHG movement. Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik has given utmost importance to the Women Self Help Groups. They are being given procurement orders for various products by the government departments. If procurement of Sal leaves is added to the list, it can become a mile stone in the development journey of the tribal areas. The associate small industries involved in processing the Sal and Sial leaves will also get a boost as demand for them increases.

The Government’s incentives to them will definitely create a chain of benefits for others involved in the supply and management chain of these forest products. If new technology is added to the manufacturing process of Sal leaf plates and cups, they can become the alternate to disposable plastic. They have also a potential to become a brand in the international and national markets.

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