It is estimated that as much as 14 billion pounds of trash- mostly non-biodegradable plastics- are discarded into the ocean each year. This water pollution can come from a variety of sources, and is categorized into Point Source and Nonpoint Source pollution. Point source pollution is caused by larger singular events like oil or chemical spills. Nonpoint source pollution is caused by runoff from larger sources (Ex. farms, livestock ranches, and logging/tree harvesting) as well as several smaller sources (Ex. septic tanks, cars, trucks, and boats).
According to WHO global air pollution database, out of the 15 most polluted cities in the world, 14 are in India. A 2017 study by India’s Comptroller and Auditor General showed that more than 163 million Indians do not have access to safe drinking water, and nearly 46 million people currently live in areas with “water-quality-affected habitations”. The country’s per capita use of plastics is fairly low, at 24 pounds or 11 kilograms a year, in comparison to the United States’ 240 pounds or 109 kilograms, but India also has a population of nearly 1.4 billion. Only 60% of the plastic waste is collected. This means that there are more than 550,000 tons of plastic waste that are dumped into the ocean annually. The rest ends up in the water supplies and soil, including agricultural land and drinking water.
India has been making an effort to reduce the country’s waste. The National Rural Drinking Water Program is a program run by India’s Ministry of Drinking Water and Sanitation that began in 2012 with the goal of “providing every person in rural India with adequate safe water for drinking, cooking and other domestic basic needs on a sustainable basis”. Despite spending 90 percent of it’s 890.95 billion rupee budget over five years, the program failed to achieve its goals. An audit done in 2017 found that instead of the 100% coverage that was promised, access to safe drinking water was only found in 44% of rural habitations and 85% of government schools. “Similarly, instead of the 50% target, only 18% of rural population was provided potable drinking water through pipes and only 17 per cent of rural households were given household connections.” India also conducted informative workshops in schools that “linked single-use plastic to pollution, poor health, overflowing drains, and breeding mosquitoes”. The southern state Tamil Nadu has banned 14 types of plastic, and governments in more than half of India’s territories has legislation taking aim at single-use plastic. Prime Minister Narendra Modi has also announced India’s intention to eliminate single-use plastic by 2022.
Much could be done in order to minimize India’s pollution problems. Increased recycling and plastic collection programs, especially surrounding rivers like the Ghengis, and national consistent enforcement of regulations surrounding sale and disposal of plastics could all greatly impact the country’s current sanitation. Preemptively, funding alternatives for single use and disposable plastics as well as a countrywide tax on single use plastics could prevent further pollution.