As more and more people are taking their first flight journey, airports are getting busier. It takes a lot more time at the check-in counters and the air carriers are being tested daily for their efficiency and effectiveness. The airport authorities also have a tough time managing the crowd especially the facilities namely toilets, general cleanliness, and drinking water. Interesting drinking water got me all worried this time!
In my attempt to consume less plastic and be as environment friendly as possible i have over the last few months stopped buying and carrying water bottles. I try to consume water at safe points, especially at the airport water dispensers. But this time around i stopped in front of the water fountains and left without drinking. The new airports in line with the international standards (or whatever that means) have replaced the water dispenser taps with little fountains, where you press a little button and water comes out of an outlet like a fountain, we can consume it keeping our mouths to the water flow. But this time around i found a man (ignorant one though) putting his mouth to the water fountain itself and then pressing the button. I stopped, i saw and i left. His explanation to the person next to him was – don’t waste so much water. To drink a few mouth fulls why are you wasting so much water that is flowing.
I don’t want to debate what is right and wrong! But i definitely want to raise the question of culture. In India we are used to drinking water out of a tap. In fact in many homes people don’t even sip water from the glass! Where has all that cleanliness gone? Are we aping the west wrong? While we may be given to understand that a few thousand paper cups may be wasted in an effort to dish out water at the airports – this effort to make them drink water directly from the fountain will lead to a much greater cost – cost of health, which in my opinion is much larger than a few thousand cups every day.
While someone may argue that the ideal way is to teach and educate the air travellers the importance of hygiene, one must accept that it is fairly impossible in the short term; especially in a multi-lingual, diverse, multi-cultural, fast developing economy like India. I am sure it the case at many other places too. Sometimes we need to assess the total cost of environmental efforts – being green is important, but not at the cost of new communicable diseases. Design thinking needs to consider the downside of ignorant users too. Many times i am beginning to feel that sticking to basics is a lot better.
For now i have decided to have water at the home / hotel and then stay put till i get into the aircraft to have my next glass. In case of an emergency there is always the bottled water.