Show and tell to keep India spick and span: tourists asked to snap rubbish pictures via an app

The government of India is hoping to enlist tourists in an attempt to keep its major sights spick and span.

Tourists at the Taj Mahal.
Tourists at the Taj Mahal encouraged to send alerts on litter. Image by Steven Zwerink / CC BY-SA 2.0

Visitors to the country will not however, have to worry about picking up a mop and bucket … but instead are being asked to download an app to raise an alert every time they see a mess. The Swaach Parayatan Mobile App will work at major tourist destinations like the Taj Mahal in Agra and the Red Fort in Delhi. The mobile app allows visitors take photographs of rubbish and upload them along with their remarks, or simply make suggestions about how sights could be improved.

It’s an unorthodox approach to take to garbage around landmarks but tourism bosses have promised that any feedback they do receive will be acted on immediately. Tourism Minister Mahesh Sharma explained at the app’s launch that they aim to clean up any mess they are told about within one to two hours. He said that visitors often had suggestions about how to improve the places they visit and that this would create a direct point of contact with officials. The app is available on Android phones at the moment (the most popular in India) but will be expanded to Apple and Microsoft mobiles later in the year.

In February, the Ministry of Tourism also launched a new Tourist Infoline for visitors to India. It has been a major success, getting up to 12,000 calls every single day and offering information and help on travel around the country in twelve different languages.

The new littering app is being trialled at 25 different locations, including Unesco world heritage sites like the Elephanta Caves, Humayun’s Tomb and the Konark Sun Temple. If successful, the Ministry of Tourism said it would “be scaled up to include more monuments as the campaign expands”.