The country is a shock, even for people that have traveled quite extensively! Seriously, it’s just mind boggling how dirty India really is. I’ll take it up a notch even – from what I’ve seen it mostly goes from littered to outright disgusting.

Let’s just start with the pictures first.

Now to put things in perspective, I’ve heard there are areas of the country, which are supposed to be clean. I’m looking forward to visiting them and seeing the positive exceptions. Let me just quickly actually name the places I’ve been to: Mumbai, Goa, Karnataka’s coastline, Western Ghats, Mangalore, Bangalore, Bhopal, Khajuraho, Orchha, Jhansi, Gwalior, Agra and New Delhi.

I know, I know, there is a LOT more for me to see, but I’ll take a risk and claim this to be the reality of most of India.

Up until my most recent trip, I only traveled in the South of the country, mainly in Karnataka and I’ve always found the state to be dirty, litter lying around pretty much everywhere humans are around. My friends and family have been talking about how South India is “clean” in comparison to the North. After finally visiting parts of it (Madhya Pradesh, Agra and Delhi) I would say this: South India is dirty, but North India goes from dirty to simply disgusting!

From open sewage, people defecating in the open to mounds of trash accumulated in some parts on basically every step. Garbage and filth are something that seem to fuse with your very existence when you travel in North India. It’s on the streets, it’s on the train, it’s out in the nature, in the restaurant you are eating and in the room you are sleeping (last two only seem to go away if you stick to 5 star hotels and expensive restaurants).

Are there differences between cities I’ve seen? Certainly! New Delhi was the cleanest of the lot, but let’s not kid ourselves, that’s still far away from clean. People say Goa is clean in the tourist season. Well I visited it in August and rest assured, it is far from clean. What was the worse? Probably Jhansi with its surroundings, the famous Agra and Orchha, a small touristy town famous for its palaces, where garbage lies even in these protected monuments. And to top it off, someone decided to take a dump in one of the “regal” rooms. Ah yes India, India….

Why is India so dirty?

One thing I repeatedly hear is that it’s the Government’s fault, as it does not take care of the infrastructure, collect and manage waste appropriately. That is most certainly true in many parts of India, however it seems to me like that this mentality of “it’s the Government’s fault, not the people’s” is just as responsible for the state of India’s environmental degradation.

In India it is completely socially acceptable to throw whatever piece of garbage on the streets (at least from my observation). Nobody is likely to look twice your way, let alone say anything to you. Whatever is not your household is not your environment anymore, it does not belong to you and therefore you can threat it any way you like and degrade it as much as you want. For a country and culture that prides itself so much on its communal ties, this is just mind boggling.

I’m a huge nature lover and for me this utter disrespect not only of the landscape but ultimately of the shared environment Indians live in, makes me draw an unpleasant conclusion that the Indian society is one of the more egoistic I have ever come across. And pollution in India goes much further than garbage on the streets, it’s the air, the chemical waste, the dead rivers (yes Ganga, they continue treating you like a whore, not a mother), the fields and of course the cities, pulsating with the ever present noise pollution. It’s a recipe of how NOT TO create an environment for human beings to live in.

Was there anything positive in regards to the environment? Yeah, they have cleaned up the banks of Yamuna river which flows just behind Taj Mahal, due to the planned visit of Barrack Obama in late 2015. The US president didn’t end up coming to India, as he switched his itinerary and attended the late Saudi King’s funeral, but maybe next time he should announce a one year backpacking trip to the country, to really get things going 😉

A brighter future ahead?

Since Narendra Modi’s BJP Government came to power in 2014, a lot of media attention has been given to the Swacch Bharat campaign, or in other words Clean India. In November 2015 a dedicated 0.5% tax has been introduced which affects all services in India. The proceeding of which are to be exclusively used for cleaning up the environment in the country.

Now, either this has had no visible effect yet in the areas I’ve visited or it was even worse before. In any case, I deeply and sincerely hope there is progress made in the future and visitors to India can focus on the country’s other aspects, of which many are well worth seeing and experiencing. Until then the country’s tourism slogan could be changed to “Incredibly Dirty India”. So put that dystopian future novel down and come see an environmental disaster happening today on a grand scale.

And now for the conclusion, I leave you with some more disturbing imagery, which I have not taken myself:

P.S. I will gladly welcome all your inputs on where else in India I need to go, to see the opposite of what I’ve seen. Most happy to enrich my experiences with a cleaner, more incredible India.

Follow

33 COMMENTS

  1. keeping an open mind ; I guess you were more focused in shooting the garbage places ….I feel your article is biased.. but I do agree we need smarter plans to clean this country..

    • Biased? In what way? I don’t think anybody can truly argue India on average is not a dirty place. I write about various aspects of the places I visit, so for example you wont see an article titled India on this website, but rather specific articles about what I found interesting in the countries I visit. Unfortunately environmental degradation was one of the most striking things I’ve encountered in India.

      It’s still a new blog, I’ll write more things about India, not all of them negative 🙂

      • I will share my experience on this “garbage” ….recently i have been to chandertaal Lake in himalayas…its so beautiful, clear n pristine in its form…I have never seen anything as beautiful as this lake (attached is pic)…Now starts the story of garbage….there is this group of bikers who came along to visit this place, they are all relaxing on lake side while having their chocolates n chips ..which is good ….but the saddest part is….none of them have any “common sense” not to litter this place…they were just throwing wrappers and plastic covers all over…Im so upset to see all these…they could have kept them in their bags n disposed it at nearest town……they dont have any concerns on environment ….The Truth is we are all living with a bunch of morons who dont know how to keep their surroundings clean…Author is trying to point out something which is seriously wrong with india ..rather than getting offended by an article like this…try to change bunch of morons around you

      • Don’t listen to the offended people, being indian myself I can assure you that India even after the Swachh Bharat mission is as shitty as ever. We may be progressing in different areas but our cities are a total muck.

    • His article is not at all biased i am an Indian and i totally agree with what he has written. i think that instead of getting offended we should try to clean our country.

    • EVERY TIME the issue of trash and utter filth of india comes up YOU indians just stick your inferiority complex minds into the hole.

      Instead of ALWAYS trying to DIVERT and DETRACT and OBFUSCATE, WHY DON’T YOU iNDIANS TRY TO CLEAN YOUR DISGUSTING VILE FILTHY HELLHOLE UP AND STOP ACTING LIKE THE FILTHY PIGS THAT YOU iNDIANS BEHAVE LIKE.

      • I guess you have never been to india @lukebc:disqus , we share our water our food our limited resources among each other and yet have one of the most powerful military force as well has the best institutes for education .. other countries can dream only about what we have achevied .. like every other country we have problems and we do not deny that but nobody can look down on us.. you can compare any aspect with your country be it power,education,economy anything we will be the winners.. and that is what you cant accept and insult us because you are the one suffering from inferiority complex..not us 🙂

      • I have read most of your anti-indian racist comments and clearly in all of them wrong data has been given.. none of them have any right reference and thus all of them are lies.. do some research before commenting fake,false stuff..

    • I have a blog read by a few thousand people, in Romanian. I am in India right now, on a train between Amritsar and Agra. I traveled to around 80 countries and India is a top 3 favorite. I will say this. India and Phillipines are the dirtiest countries I have been to. If it was a quarter as dirty as it is the article would still be objective. You have to understand this is not normal nor right and start somewhere. I can not reason how a country with so many educated people and so many achievements can do this to itself. Same about the holes in the pavement and dangling wires. Same about the traffic rules, nobody can live without them.

  2. very nice point. useful content is not usual on the internet but you make sense of what you claim in words and images. congratulations. i’m a nature lover too and, just like you, i think that blaming the “government” for the dirty environment is a cynical attempt to “outsource responsability”. if people took care of their rubbish, streets would not look like wastelands. and i know what i’m talking about because i live in brazil and people always claim the same here: “it’s the government’s fault”. as if “the government” were some sort of evil entity that can’t care less for the lovely humans who litter around so innocently. brazilian streets are in very bad shape too, everywhere. and people act likewise, everywhere. i visited india in 1997 and found the place really dirty (i lived in europe then) at shocking levels. i don’t often talk about that to indians because i understand they’d feel insulted, but i’m happy a well-informed traveller (and, more importantly, an indian) tacked this issue. again, congratulations for yr article. let’s do our part and hope more people will join a more respectful behaviour towards nature and urban centres.

    • Actually I’m not Indian 🙂 I do however feel that travelling is not only about seeing pretty things and saying everything is wonderful. For me travel is first and foremost trying to discover the land I’m visiting, meaning I also try to read as much as possible, talk to locals and think about it all. India is unfortunately in a bad state as far the environment is concerned and that’s an objective truth that screams in a visitor’s face, no point in denying its existence. I do hope that it’s at least a bit better than it was when you visited.

      I visited Brazil in November 2015 and I have to say that I was pleasantly surprised, I found its cities cleaner than Argentina for example. Well maybe not Salvador, that was quite littered.

      • yep, i noticed you were not an indian a second after i had posted my comment, but that doesn’t change much. as you say, visiting places is more than getting a ticket to visit the taj mahal and delhi’s red fort (in this particular case =) ). i love stepping into the entrails of a country and find out what’s hidden in its backcountry or behind shut doors. environmental issues are clearly scorned in 3rd world countries (and i put brazil top of the list). littering is a widespread bad habit people just don’t care about. problem is… not sure we’ll have the chance to get things back on track before it’s too late.

  3. I travelled in India being European it was simply unacceptable filth it stems from philosophical approach in life that nothing is permanent while that is true it seems to affect India subconscious in negative way where there is lack of care for environment or social structure oppressed by cast system they trash their own people and country and then head to Microsoft where most behave like entitled pre madonnas while the Dalits are persecuted , it’s truly a very sad corrupted picture, I particularly feel sad for little poor girls there. Country that cares for cows more than people , thy God for Mother Theresa who showed what compassion is to this part of the world

  4. The diarrhea and other intestinal afflictions are not due to trash but the fact that over 650 million indians shit in open fields and shit in any open body of water and shit IN THE STREETS means that fecal matter coming into contact with food is extremely high in india and thus why india has such a high number of childhood deaths due to bad sanitation.

    Worse than even Africa on a per capital basis. FAR WORSE.

  5. Just bought a ticket to fly Mumbai end of this year to celebrate new year, from what I read here, I might also cancel my trips to Shimla and Karnataka. Thanks CoT.

    • Travel is about getting to know new places, cultures and peoples and India is just about the most interesting country out there. Sometimes the negatives can make for a far more rewarding trip then the positives :). Never been to Shimla, but Karnataka is definitely worth seeing.

  6. Go to Sikkim state, it is very very clean. Sikkimese are more like Tibetans. Going to India, one should not miss the state of Sikkim and the neighboring country of Bhutan. Bhutan has some restrictions for travel for non Indian foreigners (you gotta register with a government approved travel agency before you get a VISA) but Man, it is totally worth it.

    • I have been planning on going there for some time now already, so hopefully my next trip takes Assam in as well. Im currently in Mysore, which has been named India’s cleanest city for the last two years in a row… While I can attest that it is indeed in a far better condition than lets say Agra, I still find it sad that a place looking like Mysore would be the cleanest city in entire India.

  7. I think a mentality switch is in order. If they start thinking of trash as money, like the Swedes do, I’ll guarantee you that the littering will be gone in less than 5 years.

  8. I feel the lack of understanding of civics and what duties it entails for most of India’s citizens, is the main reason for it’s sordid degradation. Most people in India genuinely believe that cleaning is someone else’s job – and this idea is planted in their brains from a very small age when only the mother is responsible for cleaning the entire house.

    A lot of places (mostly cities and towns) in India are definitely disgusting and poorly planned, but it would be a considerable oversight to brand the entire nation as filthy. Whatever you can rightly say about India, the opposite is equally true. There are places in India that will truly astonish you, and there are places which will disgust you. There isn’t a country in the world with more contradictions than India – it’s almost like a world within a country. But I thank you for posting this article, it’s a gentle reminder of how much there is to do for us as a country to even approach anything close to realizing our dreams of a dirt free nation.

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here