Putting an end to plastic pollution should be a collective effort by consumers, establishments, and the administration. In a step towards this, five Gram Panchayats (GPs) in the district of Balrampur in Chhattisgarh have banned single-use plastics and set up Bartan Banks.
Barthan Banks are being operated by Self Help Groups (SHGs) in 5 GPs of Balrampur district: In Bhanora GP by the Santhoshi SHG; in Tatapani GP by Meera SHG; in Purandih GP by Swachhata SHG; in Mitgai GP by Sheetal SHG; and in Dakva GP by Rajshakti SHG.
The initiative has been taken with the support of the district administration of Balrampur, under the guidance of the Collector – Mr. R. Ekka and CEO-Zilla Panchayat – Ms. Reena Zamil. In addition, a target has been set to make the whole of Balrampur Block 100 percent free of single-use plastics. Through this experiment, the District Administration of Balrampur aims to minimize the use and disposal of plastic plates, bowls, and spoons at the village level.
Women SHGs who are operating the Barthan Banks are earning an additional income. It is often the case that for any events in the village such as birthdays, marriages, and other festivities when feasts are prepared, the Barthan Bank lends clean utensils for a small fee. The garbage generated after such events is considerably less given that no disposables are used. Through the initiative which has been started as a model, so far, an income of about Rs.19260 has been generated.
Steel bartans (utensils) were purchased by 5 gram panchayats of the district for an amount of about Rs.1,09,000, and cleaning groups have been assigned.
Earlier, resolutions were passed by the Gram Panchayats that plastic utensils should not be used for weddings, birthdays, or death feasts in the village. Instead, steel utensils should be taken from the Barthan bank for the payment of a small fee. They held that the initiative would keep the villages clean and reduce the use of single use plastics.
Slogans and wall writings about the Barthan Banks are seens at all public spaces and intersections in the villages. They have the names and mobile numbers of whom to contact when in need of steel utensils for functions. Presently, families in the GPs borrow utensils as per their requirements and return them in a clean condition on payment of the prescribed fee. A proper count is kept of the utensils lent complete with a deposit slip.
Previously, Sarpanchs and Panchayat Secretaries, were trained by their district administration on SLWM. They were informed about the various verticals of ODF Plus and the requirements of each village in order to become ODF Plus. During their sessions, they had dwelt extensively on the subject of plastic waste and were keen to rid their villages of single-use plastics. Hence, they were keen to ban the substance in their villages.
About 24 women of SHG groups from the 5 GPs manage the operation of their utensil banks and also take care of door-to-door garbage collection, promotion of menstrual hygiene management, and ensure wide publicity and awareness on the prevention of single-use plastic, the importance of handwashing, and the need to protect water sources. They conduct shramdan and promote hygiene and sanitation in schools, anganwadis, and among the women of the village.
Inputs: Rajesh Jain, District coordinator, SBMG Balrampur, Chhattisgarh