Children

Clean green Mawlynnong

About 90 km from Shillong in the East Khasi hills of Meghalaya, lies a small village. This village in North East India has barely 600 inhabitants with approximately 90 families. Even though Mawlynnong is small, it has made a big impact on the world. Want to know how?

How did it begin?

On my trip to Mawlynnong, I was lucky to meet Rishot Khongthohrem, a primary school teacher at the local school. He shared important information about his village and its cleanliness. Back when the British were still in our country, in 1887, Mawlynnong was severely affected by plague. The tribals thought it to be the wrath of evil spirits and were unsure of what to do. That’s when some missionaries arrived and while they took care of them, they also informed them that the plague was not due to any evil spirits but because there was no cleanliness in their village. Slowly, they cleaned up the village and started educating people. With education came greater awareness.

Clean green Mawlynnong

Cleanliness – a community effort

The villagers decided to have drainpipes. Now every single house has a proper drainage system. The next step was to beautify their village. Here is where Mr Rishot stepped in. He began to plant flowering shrubs all over the village. Today they dot the streets of Mawlynnong. He says that when people saw the village transform into a beautiful place along with being clean, they were amazed too. Next, everyone started planting saplings!

How do they do it every day?

Mawlynnong has appointed three street cleaners who clean the village every day. The morning I was there, it was raining heavily. Remember, this is Meghalaya, where when it rains it rains cats and dogs. Apart from the kids rushing to school, at around 7.30 in the morning, three women arrived wearing rainskirts and large rain covers on their heads, and began their cleaning routine! Yes, the cleaning of the streets continued just like any other day. It took them an hour to finish cleaning every street.

I realised that the villagers used the wet waste for compost. One of them had cut off the bottom of a large water bottle and attached a pipe to the mouth. The pipe was then taken right into the wash room and was being used in the toilets and to clean the floor. Isn’t this amazing?

But what about tourists?

Sadly, most of the time, it is the tourists who dirty the places they visit. But Mawlynnong has a strict policy. No tourist is allowed to smoke in the village or litter. You can be fined and jailed if the local committee find you guilty. Also, no vehicles are allowed inside the village. Tourists have to stop at the entry point to the village and pay a parking fee. I was told that this parking fee is then used for paying the village cleaners, the people employed to take care of the parking lot and also for other community purposes like maintaining the village lights and streets.

You can hire a vehicle to take you to Mawlynnong once you reach Shillong. There are many homestays. These are small but have neat rooms maintained by the villagers who will host you. Since they believe in energy conservation too, their light bulbs in the toilets have sensors which means the light automatically turns on when you step into the toilet and switches off when you exit. Food is simple with rotis and steamed or fried potatoes (which is the local produce), ladies fingers and carrots.

What to do there?

Besides enjoying the beauty of the village and its beautiful flowers, you can head to the single root living bridge at the Rewai which is a bridge made out of the roots of very old trees. Yes, you can walk on it! You can also climb up a treetop to get a fantastic view of our neighbouring country Bangladesh. I went up a skywalk made entirely of bamboo. It was 85 feet high which means at least seven storeys high and quite a thrilling experience!

Clean green Mawlynnong

Agenda: Keep Clean

Mawlynnong has been awarded twice for being the cleanest village in India and in all of Asia! And this is the reason tourists have been flocking here for the last five years. When I reached this place, I was amazed at how clean the village was. The residents recycling water, had banned smoking and the use of plastic, and maintaining clean toilets inside every home.

The streets of Mawlynnong are spick and span. As I took an unrestricted walk through the village three times during my two-day stay, I didn’t find anyone littering. There are beautiful bamboo dustbins at regular intervals where you can dispose off dry garbage. Yes, I used the word beautiful to describe dustbins — you almost don’t feel like throwing the garbage in them!

I realised that in Mawlynnong, every villager, and since they begin very young, every child too, is responsible for cleanliness. Hygiene and cleanliness is a value they imbibe since birth.

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Printable version | Mar 5, 2021 1:34:37 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/children/clean-green-mawlynnong/article24758404.ece

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