India woos the tourists

Last updated 08:25 02/08/2013

SET IN STONE: About 36 of the country's famous monuments and tourism sites, such as the Taj Mahal have been identified under the 'Clean India' campaign.

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India wants to clean up its image as a country overflowing with rubbish and also to draw more tourists.

Its latest "Clean India" campaign aims to achieve both at the same time.

About 36 of the country's famous monuments and tourism sites, such as the Taj Mahal, have been identified under the programme, which involves keeping the sites clean, landscaping, and providing drinking-water facilities and garbage bins.

"It is high time we turn our attention to cleaning up our cities, particularly places we showcase to tourists," said Tourism Minister K. Chiranjeevi as he kicked off the campaign at one of the country's most famous tourism attractions, the Taj Mahal, last week.

Other tourist spots include Delhi's Red Fort and the Qutab Minar - a tower made of sandstone and marble - as well as the Ellora and Elephanta Caves in western India.

The campaign will complement wider clean-up efforts by a growing number of private groups working to stop a tsunami of rubbish from burying India.

Indian cities produce some 55 million tonnes of solid waste a year. The figure is expected to increase to 260 million tonnes a year by 2047, making solid waste management a headache for urban planners.

Indians are traditionally good at recycling. But they lack, according to experts, a culture of proper waste disposal.

"The problem is a combination of three things - a lack of governance, appalling civic behaviour and insufficient infrastucture," said Robinder Sachdev, who leads the private campaign, Come, Clean India. "When you see our garbage problem, you don't feel like India is a 21st century economic power."

To begin with, there is the problem of rubbish being thrown into the streets or sewers instead of being transported to designated dump sites. Compounding this problem is a massive shortage of landfills and waste incinerators.

Ghazipur presents a snapshot of the challenge. The suburb, about half an hour's drive from downtown New Delhi, is where one of the city's four dump sites is located.

Yet, its new waste disposal plant is unable to cope with some of the 10,000 tonnes of garbage generated by New Delhi's 18 million residents daily.

The mountain of rotting garbage is nearly as tall as the apartment buildings nearby. Young children pick through the mound for plastic and metal scraps.

Cars drive past with the windows rolled up; pedestrians cover their noses because of the stench.

There are many other Ghazipurs in India.

This has led to private efforts to fix the problem. One such group is Clean India, Green India, which runs trash management and awareness campaigns in 25 Indian cities.

"People are now beginning to see garbage management as intrinsically linked to a good quality of life," said Ranjan Das, one of its coordinators.

Added Sachdev: "More people are tiring of this mess and want to do something about it."


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