Confronting Plastic Pollution in Urban Centers: Travels from India

India has become one of the fastest growing countries, both in population and technology. It is home to some of the most incredible views, architecture, wildlife, and landscapes. However, as its population and technological advancement grows, it also faces issues with pollution across its cities, especially plastic pollution.

Colorful vendors line the street in Hyderabad, India. Photo Courtesy of Arihant Daga

Colorful vendors line the street in Hyderabad, India. Photo Courtesy of Arihant Daga

Various cities of India have little management over littering, resulting in some streets being lined with used plastics and trash.

People maneuver through crowded streets in Jaipur, India. Photo Courtesy of Annie Spratt.

People maneuver through crowded streets in Jaipur, India. Photo Courtesy of Annie Spratt.

During my time in India in 2018, I noticed that the pollution levels varied greatly based on location. When visiting the big city of Navasari, the sides of various streets had a lot of plastics.  When I spent some time in the villages, just a half an hour away from Navasari, I noticed that there was much less litter. More rural areas had cleaner streets and overall less plastics, likely because the people in the rural areas were more conscious about keeping their area of land clean. Some of the small towns on the west coast of the country had very clean beaches, and in such areas it was evident that littering was heavily controlled. Though I observed rural areas had less plastic litter than more populated cities, there were also some major cities that were clean with little plastic pollution. When my family was in Surat, we noticed that the streets were much cleaner compared to Navasari, with many street vendors and stores often cleaning their area. Similarly, when I passed by the Sasan Gir National Park, there was not much litter.

New Delhi, India. Photo courtesy of Raghu Nayyar.

New Delhi, India. Photo courtesy of Raghu Nayyar.

Despite the inconsistency in plastic pollution levels I saw throughout India, the country is working towards change.

According to Robert Frerck’s piece on the Blue Ocean Network, India’s Prime Minister is working to ban all single-use plastics by 2022 in hopes to lead countries to reduce plastic waste (Frerck). This is a tremendous stride towards eliminating land pollution. With 2022 only three years away, the country will likely implement stricter laws and fines regarding littering. Reducing plastics will also, in turn, help both wild and domestic animals, such as cows that roam the streets. Many of these animals eat whatever they can find on the streets, and sometimes that includes trash and plastics that may look like food. Reducing plastic waste helps reduce the chances of animals choking or clogging their digestive tract with plastics. Not only will India help their own citizens and economic growth by succeeding in reaching their goal, they will also set a standard for other countries that are struggling with the immense challenge of plastic pollution. 

A woman feeds zebu cows in India. Photo courtesy of Monthaye.

A woman feeds zebu cows in India. Photo courtesy of Monthaye.

It is encouraging that some areas in the country have already taken strides to eliminate plastic waste, and even more so that the government is eager to tackle this problem.

India’s commitment to the 2022 goal is a major positive step forward. One that will help protect its natural ecosystems and wildlife, while simultaneously benefiting the people and businesses that uphold India’s economy.

Children in Kohlkata, India. Photo courtesy of Loren Joseph.

Children in Kohlkata, India. Photo courtesy of Loren Joseph.

 Of course, plastic pollution is still just one aspect of conservation and sustainability, especially among the social and political factors that also arise. Perhaps accomplishing this goal will build momentum for the country and encourage other nations to join the movement towards more environmentally sustainable practices in the near future and for generations to come.

 

 

Thanks to Hetal Patel, a Future Frogmen member and writer, for this contribution.

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Richard Hyman