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ECI Raises Concerns Over Non-Biodegradable Materials in Elections


The Election Commission of India (ECI) has recently reiterated its concerns regarding the environmental hazards posed by the use of non-biodegradable materials in election campaigns. Since 1999, the ECI has been urging political parties and candidates to refrain from using plastic or polythene for the preparation of election-related materials. This ongoing initiative underscores the Commission’s commitment to promoting environmentally responsible practices during elections. As concerns about environmental sustainability continue to grow, the ECI’s efforts to encourage the adoption of eco-friendly alternatives in electoral processes are increasingly relevant and important.


GS II: Polity and Governance

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. Concept of Green Elections
  2. Need for a Shift Toward Green Elections
  3. Successful Examples of Eco-friendly Electoral Initiatives
  4. Challenges in Adoption of Green Elections

Concept of Green Elections

  • Green Elections refer to environmentally conscious practices implemented to mitigate the environmental impact of electoral processes. These practices prioritize sustainability, eco-friendliness, and resource efficiency.
Key Components:
  • Sustainable Materials: Encourage candidates and parties to use recycled paper, biodegradable banners, and reusable materials for campaign purposes.
  • Energy Efficiency: Adopt energy-efficient lighting, sound systems, and transportation methods during rallies to reduce carbon emissions.
  • Digital Campaigning: Utilize digital platforms like websites, social media, and email for campaigning to minimize paper usage and energy consumption.

Need for a Shift Toward Green Elections

Environmental Consequences of Traditional Election Processes:

Carbon Emissions from Campaign Flights:

  • Emissions from campaign flights during elections can have a substantial impact on the carbon footprint.
  • Example: In the 2016 US presidential elections, the emissions from a single candidate’s campaign flights equaled the annual carbon footprint of 500 Americans.

Deforestation and Energy-Intensive Production:

  • Heavy reliance on paper-based materials for ballots, campaign literature, and administrative documents leads to deforestation and energy-intensive production processes.

Energy Consumption from Large-Scale Rallies:

  • Grand election rallies equipped with energy-consuming equipment such as loudspeakers and lighting contribute significantly to energy consumption and emissions.

Waste Generation:

  • The use of PVC flex banners, hoardings, and disposable items during campaigns contributes to waste generation and further environmental degradation.

Successful Examples of Eco-friendly Electoral Initiatives

Kerala’s Green Campaign:
  • Initiative: During the 2019 general elections, Kerala’s State Election Commission advocated for avoiding single-use plastic materials in campaign activities.
Actions Taken:
  • Ban on Non-Biodegradable Materials: The Kerala High Court imposed a ban on flex and non-biodegradable campaign materials.
  • Promotion of Sustainable Alternatives: Political parties utilized wall graffiti and paper posters as eco-friendly alternatives.
  • Awareness and Training: Government bodies collaborated with district administrations to conduct training sessions for election workers, promoting environmentally conscious behavior.
Goa’s Artisan-Crafted Eco-Friendly Booths:
  • Initiative: For the 2022 Assembly elections, the Goa State Biodiversity Board introduced eco-friendly election booths.
Actions Taken:
  • Use of Biodegradable Materials: Booths were constructed using biodegradable materials crafted by local artisans from Sattari and Ponda.
  • Support for Local Artisans: This initiative not only promoted eco-friendliness but also supported local artisan communities.
Sri Lanka’s Carbon-Sensitive Campaign:
  • Initiative: In 2019, Sri Lanka’s Podujana Peramuna (SLPP) party launched a carbon-sensitive and environmentally friendly election campaign.
Actions Taken:
  • Carbon Footprint Measurement: Carbon emissions from campaign activities were meticulously measured, including those from vehicles and electricity usage.
  • Offsetting Emissions: To offset emissions, public tree planting initiatives were organized across each district, promoting forest cover and environmental awareness.
Estonia’s Digital Voting Revolution
  • Initiative: Estonia pioneered digital voting as an eco-friendly alternative to traditional paper-based voting methods.
Actions Taken:
  • Implementation of Digital Voting: Estonia’s approach encouraged voter participation while minimizing environmental impact.
  • Security Measures: Robust security measures were implemented to ensure the integrity and safety of digital voting, demonstrating that digital voting can be both eco-friendly and voter-friendly.

Challenges in Adoption of Green Elections

Technological Proficiency and Training:

  • Challenge: Election officials must be proficient in operating and troubleshooting new technologies.
  • Solution: Adequate training programs are essential to bridge the knowledge gap among election officials.

Access and Inclusivity:

  • Challenge: Ensuring equitable access to technology for all voters, including those in remote or underserved areas.
  • Solution: Addressing disparities in internet connectivity and promoting digital literacy are crucial steps towards inclusivity.

Financial Constraints:

  • Challenge: Implementing eco-friendly materials and advanced technology often requires significant upfront costs.
  • Solution: Emphasizing long-term benefits, such as reduced paper usage and streamlined processes, can help justify the investment.

Budget Allocation:

  • Challenge: Balancing funds for technology upgrades with other essential services within budget limitations.
  • Solution: Prioritizing modernization while maintaining fiscal responsibility is a delicate task that requires careful planning and allocation.

Cultural Inertia and Voter Behavior:

  • Challenge: Overcoming traditional views of voting as a physical civic duty and changing voter behavior towards accepting digital alternatives.
  • Solution: Public awareness campaigns highlighting the benefits and reliability of digital voting can help shift perceptions and encourage adoption.

Building Trust in Electronic Voting Systems:

  • Challenge: Addressing public skepticism about the security, privacy, and potential manipulation of electronic voting systems.
  • Solution: Ensuring transparency, implementing robust safeguards, and demonstrating the integrity of the voting process can help build trust among voters.

Security Concerns:

  • Challenge: Ensuring voting systems are secure from cyber threats to maintain public trust and the integrity of elections.
  • Solution: Implementing rigorous security protocols without compromising the user-friendly interface is essential. Continuous monitoring and updating of security measures are also crucial.

-Source: Indian Express

May 2024