Vietnamese Buddhist Sangha asked followers not to buy or use plastic floral flashlights as a gift. Usually, the gifts were floated along the river, accompanied by prayers
“Do not use plastic products during floral light festivals. Try to avoid pollution of the rivers,” Sangha said in a statement sent across the country last week.
This statement was a response to many Buddhist followers who used plastic materials to make flashlights or placed a small plastic cup in paper flashlights before putting a candle inside.
The Buddhist event held in August provoked controversy among followers of faith and environmentalists. That day, 30,000 plastic lanterns were fired into the sea near the northern city of Hai Phong.
A few days after the festival, photographs were posted on the Internet showing a large number of plastic lanterns floating in Lan Ha Bay, which caused criticism and anger among conservationists. They believe that such events are a serious environmental threat to marine life.
However, local authorities later stated that they had collected all the plastic lanterns immediately after the festival and that the photos distributed online were from last year. It was later publicly confirmed that all the plastic lanterns from the bay had indeed been collected, but that there was still the question of the harm caused to sea residents by the plastic.
Floral lanterns are a longstanding Buddhist tradition, usually held at special events. Year after year, locals used to float lit floral lanterns made of paper along the rivers.
From now on, such flashlights cannot be made of plastic. Authorities also ask followers to “fight plastic waste”. They believe it is important to support a national campaign to achieve zero disposable plastic in stores, markets and supermarkets in cities by 2021. By 2025, this practice should be mandatory throughout the country.
The believer should move from disposable plastic products to those made of paper, fabric or other recyclable materials, Sangha said in a statement.
Buddhism is the most popular religion in Vietnam with nearly 45 million followers.
According to a survey conducted by Ipsos Business Consulting, a global growth consultancy based in Paris, Vietnam ranks third in Southeast Asia in terms of the amount of plastic waste that reaches local rivers and seas.
Source: VnExpress. Translation: Anna Boyko.