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India's railways reintroduce tea in clay cups in a bid to banish plastics

  • Published at 10:04 pm December 3rd, 2020
Clay Cups
Potter Atishbhai Prajapati, 25, makes clay tea cups at a workshop at Bakrol village, in Ahmedabad on December 1, 2020 AFP

Plastic cups to be replaced in a bid to reduce environmental pollution

To combat the growing environmental pollution, earthen cups – locally known as kulhads – will be used instead of plastic cups in tea shops at all railway stations in India. 

The country's railway ministry has decided to sell earthenware tea from now on to reduce environmental pollution and prevent the spread of plastics, The Guardian reported.

The kulhads, sometimes called a shikora, is a traditional handle-less clay cup from India and Pakistan that is typically unpainted and unglazed, and meant to be disposable. 

The most interesting feature of kulhads is not being painted and that differentiates a kulhads from a terra-cotta cup. The kulhads cup is unglazed inside out. Since kulhads are made by firing in a kiln and are almost never reused, they are inherently sterile and hygienic.

India’s railways minister, Piyush Goyal said that kulhads will replace plastic cups as part of the Indian government’s goal of making India free of single-use plastic.

“Kulhads will not only help reduce the use of toxic plastic and save the environment, they will give employment and income to hundreds of thousands of potters,” said Goyal, making the announcement. 

Nearly 400 railway stations in India serve tea in kulhads and the target to the government is to make sure that all the railways stations in India serve tea only kulhads. 

Speaking from his own experience, Goyal said he was having tea in a kulhads and the taste was really different. Kulhads saves the environment and hundreds of thousands of people get employment from it, he added.

Many Indians have similar memories of standing on a railway platform in the winter, hands cupped around a kulhad of hot steaming tea which, many swear, tastes better because of the earthy aroma imparted by the clay.

This is not the first time an attempt has been made to bring back kulhads. 

One of Goyal’s predecessors, Lalu Prasad Yadav, famous for his rustic rural background, tried to bring kulhads back 16 years ago, but the policy was never properly implemented and plastic cups continued to reign supreme. 

Even so, at some stations in places such as the Hindu holy city of Varanasi it is possible to spot kulhads.

India has a rich tradition of pottery. Although demand for such products has been falling as more Indians turn to plastic, steel and melamine, an earthen water pot for storing water is still a feature of village life.

Even in affluent neighbourhoods, a large pot of water – the clay keeps it cool – is often kept outside the house as a goodwill gesture for hot and thirsty passersby to drink from.

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