Urban trash smudges Asia’s cleanest village

Mawlynnong village in East Khasi Hills in Meghalaya, voted the cleanest in Asia by Discovery India magazine, is realising the price of promoting tourism. Three years after going tourist-friendly, the village is finding it tough to tackle the trash left behind by tourists: plastic wrappers, cigarette butts, bottles, et al, reports Rahul Karmakar.
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Updated on Feb 28, 2009 11:46 PM IST
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Hindustan Times | By, Mawlynnong (meghalaya),

Cleanliness comes at a cost. Mawlynnong village in Meghalaya, voted the cleanest in Asia by Discovery India magazine in January for the third year in a row, is finding this out the hard way.

Three years after going tourist-friendly, Mawlynnong, 82 km from state capital Shillong in the East Khasi Hills, is finding it tough tackling an urban menace – visitors who leave behind plastic wrappers, cigarette butts, bottles, et al. Consequence: increase in the monthly expenditure on maintaining its spotless record by Dorbar Shnong, the traditional village governing body.

“Other than 15 permanent cleaners, we use the services of part-timers for Rs 70-100 a day to clear up the mess,” said headman Thomlin Khongthohrem, who also lords over the Village Tourism Committee.

The committee, perforce, has decided to pass the clean-up cost on to tourists by asking them to buy donation coupons ranging from Rs 10-100. The cost recovery mechanism can be attributed to the villagers’ nose for business. Like most villages under Pynursla sub-division, Mawlynnong produces broomsticks and bay leaves for the world beyond.

This village claims to have been traditionally spic and span. Though it received electricity in 1988 – supply is fairly regular – its primary linkage was with the periodic Lyngkhat market, a good 45 minutes walk downhill, on the border with Bangladesh.

News about Mawlynnong’s cleanliness went out only after a gravel road linked it to Pynursla, 29 km away, in 2003. It was blacktopped the following year, encouraging the non-government Meghalaya Tourism Development Forum (MTDF) to market it as a rural tourism destination in 2005.

The 430-odd villagers subsequently installed bamboo waste baskets at every conceivable point, raking in even the fallen leaves.

“To attract tourists, we have set up a bamboo-machan guesthouse and other attractions such as a treetop bamboo sky-view. But Mawlynnong is now bursting at its seams with too many tourists and the villagers are finding it difficult to cope with this,” DD Laloo, DESIGNATION, MTDF told HT.

Steps to check the tourist bombardment – litterbugs too – include a ban on entry of vehicles. Visitors would soon be required to park their cars near the welcome arch and walk more than a kilometer to reach Mawlynnong.


    Rahul Karmakar was part of Hindustan Times’ nationwide network of correspondents that brings news, analysis and information to its readers. He no longer works with the Hindustan Times.

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