3.17.2008

Saving the environment, Indian-style

One of the things that really bugs me about much of the rhetoric surrounding debates around why developed countries should or shouldn't take action is the idea that if China and India don't do anything to cut emissions, there is no reason for anyone else to make an effort. On my recent trip to India I noted several actions - large and small - that individuals, communities, and the entire country are already taking to improve and protect their environment.

1. Water Conservation
  • Bucket Showers: Before traveling to India, I had heard many a story about the "bucket shower" and wasn't quite sure what awaited me in the bathrooms of India. For those unfamiliar with bucket showers, you basically fill a 5 gallon bucket with water and use your hands or a large cup to pour water over yourself as you wash (I guess you could dispense with the cup altogether and just pour directly from the bucket, but this is difficult when the bucket is full). In places where water temperature and pressure can be unreliable (this includes not only some of the places I stayed in India, but also my apartment in Virginia), the bucket shower not only saves A LOT of water, it also results in better control of water temperature and how well you can rinse shampoo and soap away.
  • Reminders: Travelers in the US and Europe are probably quite familiar with the signs in hotel rooms asking that you conserve water by not requesting your sheets and towels be washed and replaced each day - you'll find the same thing in India. However, many places take such requests a step further and frame such reminders in the context of the landscape - for example, Rajasthan is a desert state, so saving water has local benefits. In addition, the suggestions go beyond just linens - travelers may also consider steps such as turning the water off when brushing teeth or shaving, taking shorter showers, and flushing the toilet less often.
2. Fuel
  • Autorickshaws, taxis, and other vehicles that run on compressed natural gas. India's road are PACKED with all manner of transportation, and an increasing amount is motor vehicle traffic. In Delhi, Agra, and elsewhere, the entire fleets of autorickshaws and other for hire transportation have switched from diesel and gasoline to compressed natural gas. As a result, less particulate matter and fewer greenhouse gases are released into the air, and air quality in cities is already improving (although still not great).
These solutions are not the be-all and end-all answers - India and the rest of the world still have a long way to go. I'll continue to post about some of the other environmentally-friendly practices I observed while in India, as well as some of the not-so-great-for-the-planet stuff. My point here is that India (and other countries) are making efforts to protect the planet - and that means there is no excuse for the United States and other developed countries to do as much as they can to clean up their own acts.

2 comments:

Assman said...

Hi Emily, this is Rahul from India, nice post, but as you said, we do have a long way to go here too. the compressed natural gas is used in the main cities only, everyone else is using petrol/gasoline itself.
It would be interesting to note that in my city of Bangalore, it is compulsary to have some solar appliance instead of electrical appliance, so we have a geyser. The essential comforting feature is the rising consciousness and awareness. Even the companies are going in for greener technologies to gain carbon credits, which according to a certain protocol are exchangable with the countries like US and can be the substitute for the American companies for reducing emmissions. Pretty shady concept actually, but its helping awareness spread in India all the same.

Anonymous said...

The bucket shower culture is a huge problem when Indian nationals and nationals from countries used to this idea/culture visit the UK because some people are not used to showers or baths in the traditional way and can ruin B&B and hotel bathrooms by tipping water over themselves onto wooden floors, causing flooding to rooms below.