His War With Plastic
- Bhakti Kothari
- Published on 14 May 2021, 8:46 am IST
- 5 minutes read
Be the change that you want to bring about. This young IAS officer, with a corporate background, did precisely this- starting with eliminating plastic from his own life.
Mr Megh Nidhi Dahal, a 2015 batch IAS Officer posted in Assam, brought about a massive change in the region when he said a firm goodbye to the usage of plastic in all its forms. During his stint as the Sub-divisional officer of North Salmara, he launched a “No-Plastic” initiative, beginning from his work place. Being an advocate of eco-friendly lifestyle, he knew that he had to do something about the extreme usage of plastic everywhere, before it becomes too hard to bring under control.
The idea of abandoning the excessive use of plastic
Mr Megh, who hails from Sikkim, did his engineering from Bangalore. After working for 4 years in the corporate sector, he decided to quit and enter into civil services. Talking to Indian Masterminds about the uncurbed use of plastic, he says “The use of plastic is not bad, in fact it is much less resource intensive, but the problem lies in the disposal of plastic. It is so cheap that we think it is okay to take plastic for single time use and do away with it; and this is where we are horribly wrong.” Talking about it further, he says, “We are only considering the manufacturing or production cost of the plastic equipment, thereby finding it cheap, but we are not adding the cost that it is imposing upon the environment and the water resources.”
Counting all these factors, he realized that plastic is not as cheap as projected. He wished to reduce the usage of single-use plastic.
How the idea struck him
Just prior to 2019 general elections, recounted the IAS officer, he went to a venue where polling was to be held. What he found there shook him to the bones. He came across a pit where the people should have pushed all the biodegradable waste, and on an impulse got it dug. “There, I found plastic plates which were used in the last elections, as good as new coming out from the ground! I realized that this is not going to decay in hundreds of years and it is a big cost to the environment. This compelled me to make a conscious call and say no to plastic”, said Mr Megh.
No-plastic environmental promotion
Mr. Megh took a major step during the time of general elections 2019, when he replaced plastic plates and cutlery with melamine, thermocol and cornstarch ones. He told Indian Masterminds about it in detail. “I was the district collection officer at the time and we had to conduct elections for the Lok Sabha. Before its commencement, we pledged to minimize the application of single use plastics to the possible extent. The first step was to eliminate the use of plastic bottles. We installed 20 litre water jars, which were reusable and we put steel tumblers for people to drink water with. To feed the 6000 people in the polling duties, we rented around 2000 melamine plates from wedding halls and guest houses and we brought the people in batches to eat. We also kept a few people to clean the dishes, thus generating employment”, he explained.
The area in which the campaign was held was remote. They were able to manage melamine plates, but managing bowls for liquid food was a tough task. The need of the hour brought another idea in his mind, and he found out about bowls made from cornstarch. To confirm whether they were bio-degradable or not, he did a little research work and once he was sure about its bio-degradability, he went forward with his idea. “The bowls were made from cornstarch, the plates were melamine, and this is how we ensured complete elimination of non-disposable plates, bowls, and plastic!” he exclaimed.
Combining the polling day, campaigns, and training periods, Mr. Megh fed around 15000 people in melamine plates and cornstarch bowls, thereby purging the use of plastic!
Abolishing plastic usage from his workplace
For Mr. Megh, eliminating plastic usage from the general elections was not just a one-time thing. He continued with the no-plastic campaign wherever he went. One won’t find any plastic cups or glasses in his office till-date. To replace them, he brought in the idea of using earthen cups! “Earlier when I used to go to meetings or official functions, we were served in paper or plastic cups, and my idea was to eliminate both of them. Moreover, I found out that the area was home to a lot of artisans dealing in earthen-wares. Therefore, I went forward and gave a bulk order of 1000 earthen cups, which only cost me Rs.2 per cup! It was a good deal, both for the pocket and the environment,” he said.
Mr. Megh had to face a few challenges too. One of these was skepticism amongst hisown team members. “Initially, my team wondered how we could succeed. Bringing those many plates and bowls, appointing cleaners, managing everything seemed like a mammoth task. But when they saw how determined I was, they supported me and everything fell into place,” he said.
Another big challenge was arranging plates from various sources. They had to scan a number of industries and halls to be able to manage renting them. “Procuring the cornstarch cutlery was a task. None of it was available in my area, we had to fetch it from another place far away”, he said.
But the biggest challenge of all was to change the mind-set of the people in his area. “They were quite reluctant of drinking from an earthen cup, but since I myself used it to drink from it, they gradually accepted the idea,’’ he said.
Indian Masterminds wishes Mr. Megh Nidhi Dahal the best of luck for all his future endeavors!
END OF THE ARTICLE