Packaged water is it’s official name.
It should be called an environmental disaster. We should all be using a water filter.
Packaged or Bottled water has been a fixture of the India travel experience for a long, long time. Bottles instead of a water filter have been the preferred source of drinking water. A friend of mine printed t shirt in the early nineties that had a simple image on them. It was a picture of a bottle of Bisleri. The bottle was so ubiquitous that he sold them all to friends that had been to India. Soon they will become a distant memory.
The negatives of bottled water.
There are so many negatives to bottled water. One day my Mother met her doctor in the carpark & he saw that my Mother had a plastic water bottle on the passenger seat. He told her that they should be kept out of the sun, as carcinogens leach out of the plastic into the water with sunlight. A couple of months later, the same Doctor diagnosed my Mother with Cancer. This started my hatred for those bottles. I blamed them. I could not stand the site if them. I refused to have them in my house. I used old duty free spirit bottles & added filtered water to them for myself & guests. Any plastic bottles had to be left in a place that they could not be seen outside. My eyes were drawn to them from then on.
After moving to Goa, I was suddenly again surrounded by the dreaded packaged water bottles. They piled up everyday behind the restaurant. I hated them. It got me thinking about them & how to get rid of them. Water filters would seem to be the best option.
Why is there so much bottled water in India?
A big reason for the huge use of water bottles in India has been the travel guidebooks. Notably the ‘Lonely Planet’ guide who were the arbiters of Indian travel in the 80’s & 90’s. I cannot find an old book or any reference, but I am sure that the book advised that travellers did not drink any water except bottled water, with the seal intact, to avoid become unwell. I will try & clarify this with Lonely Planet. Also to check on their current advice on this. I will also at this point thank ‘Lonely Planet’ for the fact I have been a vegetarian for twenty eight years. This is thanks to the book telling me to avoid meat in India. I saw a butchers shop in Delhi & that was it, never again, I thank you for that from the bottom of my heart. It would be great if Lonely Planet made a concerted effort to discourage plastic use on their website. I will forward this article to them.
So unlike other countries of the world, for travellers in India, the only option IS bottled water. So it would seem. Many places have water filters & will provide you with a bottomless cup of it if you ask. However the problem with this is that people do not trust. One reason for this is that the water filter in inside & they cannot see the water coming from it.
What are the options.
My suggestions to change from bottled water are as follows.
Stop selling bottled water!
What about shopkeepers? There is the loss of the twenty rupees income? For many the water bottle is still a source of regular income in small shops in tourist areas (& across the country now, however there are water ATMs which is great initiative from the government). The water also brings in tourist to buy other things, so there will be some reticence from some shop keepers.
What can shop keepers do instead?
Put an attractive water filter inside or outside your shop. There are some clear filters that let you see all the filters inside, which gives confidence to customers. Many tourists will keep the water bottle & buy another before they run out. At this point they can refill the bottle. And guess what it costs? Yes, twenty Rupees! The same income, without the cost, (yes, I know, once the machine has been paid for.)
Alongside the water filter there needs to be a choice of bottles. Refillable, reusable water bottles. It will take some time for people to get used to this, but again, soon it will be normal to carry a special water bottle & extremely abnormal to have a clear single use one.
Restaurants & hotels also have a choice?
Offer water in glass bottles filled from your filter. Give them for free or charge your normal price. Put a water filter in an obvious public place with a sign saying drinking water. Put a collection box & ask that anyone filling their bottle to put twenty rupees in. This will save time, energy & staff costs. People are honest & what will you have lost anyway? Twenty rupees. A small price to pay to do your bit in saving the environment.
You can also have a range of great re-useable water bottles for people to buy. This actually adds income to selling water.