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.