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Asia’s cleanest village Mawlynnong’s secrets revealed

By: Ami Nathung

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

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On my trip to Mawlynnong, I was lucky to be able to interact with the locals residing there, and one of the residents had a good deal of knowledge about the history the village. He shared an important episode in the village’s history and revealed how the village came to be so clean.

 

Meghalaya
The famous ‘living root bridge’

He said that back when the British were still ruling our country, India, in 1887, Mawlynnong was severely affected by a plague. The tribals thought it was the wrath of evil spirits and were unsure of what to do. That’s when some missionaries arrived and while taking care of the villagers, they informed them that the plague was not due to any evil spirits but because of a lack of cleanliness in their village.

Slowly, they cleaned up the village and started educating people. With education came greater awareness.

On asking could he recall exactly from when did they started to keep the village clean, he firmly replies: “from ever since I can remember.” He further adds that cleanliness is a measure taken to prevent disease and illness as the hospitals are very far away. The resident of the the village also informed that from their childhood itself, they are taught to maintain cleanliness, and thus, it has become their ethic.

Upon being asked about the political system in the village, he said that the people of the village nominate one candidate as a headman who forms a community to maintain cleanliness in the village. Also, on every Saturday, the entire village people gather together to do some social work.

Besides these, the village has proper drainpipes, concrete road and is filled with trees, shrubs and flowers which all adds to the beauty of Mawlynnong village.

Mawlynnong has appointed three street cleaners who clean the village every day and one can see Dustbins made of bamboo in front of every house and corner of the road.

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 the area. A person can be fined and jailed if the local committee finds him/her 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. 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.

 

A hired vehicle can be used to travel to Mawlynnong once a tourist reaches the capital Shillong. There are many homestays. These are small but have neat rooms maintained by the villagers who will host you.

Local vendors selling their wares in Mawlynnong

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, one can even walk on it! One can also climb up a treetop to get a fantastic view of our neighbouring country Bangladesh. I personally enjoyed the experience of walking up a skywalk made entirely of bamboo.

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 one reaches this place, one would be amazed to see how clean the village was. The residents recycle water, have banned smoking and the use of plastics, and are maintaining clean toilets inside every home.

I realised that in Mawlynnong, every villager, including every child, is responsible for cleanliness. Hygiene and cleanliness is a value they are being taught since birth.

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