Updated March 17th, 2024 at 13:52 IST

Carpool, No Single-Use Plastics and Much More: EC Calls For Sustainable Polls

Avoiding single-use plastics, keeping paper use to the minimum and carpooling are part of the Election Commission's directions to the poll machinery.

Reported by: Digital Desk
Election Commission of India | Image:PTI
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New Delhi: Avoiding single-use plastics, keeping paper use to the minimum, using eco-friendly vehicles and carpooling are part of the Election Commission's directions to the poll machinery and political parties ahead of the Lok Sabha polls to ensure a "sustainable election".

According to Chief Election Commissioner Rajiv Kumar, the Election Commission of India (ECI) is sensitive to environmentally sustainable elections.

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"In a step towards sustainable or eco-friendly elections, we are making efforts to minimise single-use plastic and encourage eco-friendly practices in the election process. A set of instructions has been issued to the poll machinery and political parties for waste management, minimisation of paper and reducing carbon footprint," Kumar said during a press conference on Saturday when he announced the schedule for the Lok Sabha polls.

The commission has instructed to avoid single-use plastic completely, ensure separate collection bins and proper signage and adequate disposal facility for each type of waste, partner with local waste management and recycling facilities, minimise the use of paper for voter lists and electoral materials, ensure double-side printing and layout optimisation and encourage electronic mode of communication.

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It has also urged officials and political parties to reduce the carbon footprint by encouraging carpooling and using public transport during campaigning and the election process, utilising renewable energy for campaign events and consolidating polling locations to cut the distance travelled by officials and voters.

Polling for the 543 Lok Sabha seats will be held in seven phases, starting with 102 in the first phase on April 19. The votes will be counted on June 4.

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In August 2023, ahead of the Assembly elections in five states, the ECI voiced its concerns over the environmental risks associated with the use of non-biodegradable materials in election campaigning and urged political parties to avoid plastic and polythene for making posters and banners.

As part of instructions issued in February 2019, the poll panel had said that a lot of the campaigning materials, including posters, cut-outs, hoardings and banners, are made of plastic which are discarded once the polls are over.

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"Such single-use plastic waste generated during campaigning does not get collected and causes choking of drainage and river systems, ingestion by stray animals...leading to adverse impacts on human health and environment," it had noted.

The ECI had cautioned that some of these plastics are polyvinyl chloride (PVC)-based which produces toxic emissions on burning.

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"A number of alternative options to the use of plastic in campaigning material are available such as compostable plastics, natural fabrics, and recycled paper material, which have a lesser environmental impact. Such materials need to be promoted as a sustainable and environmentally sound management practice," it had said.

While the Election Commission has been making a push for eco-friendly polls, there have been successful experiments globally.

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In 2019, the Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP) party launched the world's first carbon-sensitive environmentally friendly election campaign. It measured carbon emissions from vehicles and electricity used during political campaigns and compensated for the emissions by planting trees in each district through public participation.

Estonia laid the foundations for digital voting as an online voting alternative which also encouraged voter participation. The approach suggested that digital voting accompanied by robust security measures is both eco- and electorate-friendly.

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In India, during the 2019 general elections, the Kerala State Election Commission urged political parties to avoid single-use plastic materials while campaigning.

Subsequently, the Kerala High Court imposed a ban on flex and non-biodegradable materials in electioneering and wall graffiti and paper posters emerged as alternatives.

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Government bodies collaborated with the district administration in Thiruvananthapuram to ensure a green election and training sessions were conducted in villages for election workers.

In 2022, the Goa State Biodiversity Board set up eco-friendly election booths for the Assembly elections, using biodegradable materials crafted by local artisans.

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(This report is generated from the Press Trust of India. Except for the headline Republic has not edited the content.)

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Published March 17th, 2024 at 13:52 IST