A mood of festivity has captured the city just before the upcoming Dhaka North and South city corporation elections as the streets have been "decorated" with thousands of posters of the candidates.
You can see the posters hung with ropes across the streets, promising a clean and modern city if a certain candidate gets elected in the January 30 polls.
But the irony is that almost all the candidates have had their posters laminated to save them from getting wet and damaged by mist this winter. Though polythene is very harmful to the environment and its production, marketing and use are legally punishable, no government agency seems to be aware of the matter as they are yet to take any action.
Environmentalists said the polythene used on the posters will cause an adverse effect on the environment by polluting water and soil. The piles of polythene will float through the drains and end up in our rivers.
In the streets and alleys of Karwan Bazar area of the capital, hundreds of posters of Dhaka North mayoral candidate Atiqul Islam can be seen. All the posters are laminated.
In Segun Bagicha, most of the posters hanging over the streets are of Fazle Nur Taposh and Ishraq Hossain, two mayoral candidates of Dhaka South. Almost all posters are wrapped in polythene.
Several candidates, on the condition of anonymity, said it is not their duty to worry about the polythene – it is the duty of the city corporation.
All the candidates declared their plans for posters in the affidavits submitted to the Election Commission. Fazle Nur Taposh mentioned in his affidavit that he would print 4 lakh posters. Mohammad Saifuddin, the mayoral candidate of the Jatiya Party for Dhaka South, declared to print about 1.5 lakh posters.
This year 14 mayoral candidates and 586 councillor candidates are participating in the election.
The councillor candidates have declared to print 3,500 to 20,000 posters each for their respective campaigns. Most of them declared to print 10,000 posters each. Moktar Sardar, the councillor candidate for Ward 35 of Dhaka North, declared 20,000 posters.
But people concerned said the actual number of posters printed by the candidates is far more than their declarations.
According to printing press workers in the Fakirapool area of Dhaka, where most of the posters are printed, the usual size of a poster is 18x23 inches. But to laminate a poster, almost double the size of polythene is required.
Saiful Islam, an official of Swadesh Enterprise in Fakirapool, told The Business Standard, "Almost all our customers have been asking for laminating their posters."
Councillor candidates and people involved in the campaigns declined to comment on the matter.
Meanwhile, environmentalists and activists expressed their concerns that these polythene-laminated posters will eventually turn into garbage and pollute water and soil of Dhaka.
The Environment and Social Development Organisation (Esdo), working in Bangladesh on impacts of polythene and single-use plastic, recently posted on Facebook requesting the mayor and councillor candidates not to use polythene on their electoral posters.
They said the polythene-laminated posters will contaminate water bodies and wetlands of Dhaka in different ways, posing threats of water- and air-borne diseases. They stressed that the practice of poster lamination with polythene should stop.
"If they were only paper posters, many could collect and use them to make paper-bags later. But, there is no such scope with the laminated posters. Now, they will turn into waste and ultimately pollute Dhaka's soil and water," said Shahriar Hossain, the secretary-general of Esdo.
Sayeda Rizwana Hasan, CEO of Bangladesh Environmental Lawyers Association (BELA), said "The Election Commission should take proper action against the use of polythene in the campaign. The candidates should not use polythene to wrap their posters. They can use leaflets and other modern communication media like TV, radio, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube etc, for their campaigns."
The Election Commission has no headache about the use of polythene. There is no monitoring concerning the matter, Rizwana added.
Abul Kashem, returning officer of Dhaka North, said, "We know that the use of polythene is banned, but there are no instructions. We have taken no action about the matter."
The Bangladesh government banned the production, marketing and use of polythene in 2002.