Sustainability is a complex issue and can cover a wide range of topics. According to the Oxford Dictionary, something sustainable is able to keep an ecological balance while maintaining the conservation and efficient management of Earth’s limited natural resources. In other words sustainability happens when something is environmentally friendly or contributes to the well being of everyone in society. Also, sustainability topics don’t always have to do with “going green”. They can deal with social issues such as human and labor rights, social responsibility, and cultural understanding.
India is a large country that deals with a wide variety of complex sustainability issues. These include the obvious ones like pollution to the streets, water, and air, but there are also issues that can’t been seen as easily with the naked eye, like poverty, child hunger, and women’s rights/safety issues.
Even though I have only been here a week and have not experienced that much of India, I have seen many ways that the people and government of this nation are trying to be sustainable. These observations include how people save water by taking showers with a bucket and cups. At first I thought it was strange to see them in our shower at The New Woodlands in Chennai (even when there was clearly a useable shower head right there), but after showering with them I became very conscious of how much excess water we use every time we take a shower. This is very important in an area where water is such a precious resource. .
Another thing I have noticed has been the signs an garbage cans put up by the government all around Chennai and Mahabalipuram that urge passers-by not to litter and to keep the environment clean. I think this is very interesting, and I did not expect to see things like this here in India. I have also recognized smaller things like how the shower here at our current beachside hotel gives complimentary soap and shampoo in a dispenser installed in the shower instead of in individual plastic bottles.
Even with this effort put forth by the government and private businesses, there still seems to be a huge issue with how much obvious pollution is still present in the urban areas of South India. The streets can be full of trash in some areas and many dumpsters are overflowing with garbage. Most of the water is not clean or safe to drink, and in many places, the “higher class” neighborhoods are still, according to our standards, dirty.
Why are there these challenges around sustainability here in India? It seems apparent that many try to make an effort to conserve and save water, and the government campaigns about pollution. At the same time there is a huge pollution issue. I anticipate that I will be able to learn more about these issues as we travel to different places and expect that visiting more rural villages and the organic spice garden will offer new perspectives and give me additional material to think with.