A day in Asia’s cleanest village – Mawlynnong

“It is not the extraordinary that no one else can do, But the ordinary that no one else will do.”

Zero waste techniques have been in practice in many parts of India, however most of them are usually restricted to a few individuals. Have you ever imagined how wonderful it would be to live in a village where every house is a zero waste home? While many may dismiss this thought to be an idealistic view, the answer to the question could be a visit to Mawlynnong, a small village in East Khasi hills in Meghalaya. Here’s an account of my visit to this inspiring village in 2013.

Bamboo baskets stand at every corner, signboards forbid to thrash plastics in these baskets

Mawlynnong is located close to the Bangladesh border with a forest separating them. A few hours in this village and you can observe that the village is well maintained and spotlessly clean, thanks to the bamboo baskets placed every few metres to dispose trash (organic waste). The villagers have been maintaining a wonderful practice to segregate organic and in-organic waste for decades with separate bins for each. There is a plastic ban inside the village and plastic should not be disposed even in the trash baskets here.

At Mwallynong, Meghalaya. PC - Prashanth Krishnan
A villager making his way to Mawlynnong with a bamboo basket. Image credits: Prashant Krishnan

Flowering plants and fruits greet you as look into a garden of each home, and even on a sunny day, you are well assured of a lot of shade and breeze as walk along the village, thanks to the efforts of all the villagers. On a walk in this village, you can notice houses built with just tin sheets (of old oil tin cans) and items reused in an innovative manner, and there will be something unique about each house, either with the arrangement in the garden or the structure of the house.

Mawlynnong was recognized as ‘Asia’s cleanest village’ by Discovery Magazine in 2003.

After the village hit the headlines in 2003 of being the Asia’s cleanest village, a flurry of visitors have been making their way to this village. Cleanliness is a deeply rooted in the thoughts and action of the people living here. While the urban population have switched to plastics for carrying stuff, the villagers here continue to use bamboo baskets for everything that they need to carry.

At Mwallynong, Meghalaya. PC - Prashanth Krishnan
The spotlessly clean roads in the village. Image credits: Prashanth Krishnan

A 85 feet high bamboo skywalk in the Indo-bangla border makes this village a major tourist attraction. From this view point, one can easily see the extensive plains of Bangladesh. Bangladesh border is said to be 3 kms from here, and I could notice my cellular network switching to “Airtel Bangladesh” at this point.

The bamboo skywalk in Mawlynnong to get a glimpse of Bangladesh plains
Scrap cloth used to make the human figure near the skywalk. Image credits: Prashanth Krishnan
The bamboo tree house to view the Bangladesh border (about 3 kms from Mawlynnong)

East Khasi hills has more to offer in terms of Eco-tourism. A 15 minute ride from Mawlynnong will lead you to the natural root bridge in the nearby Rewai village. Unlike a concrete bridges, which weaken over a period of time, these root bridges get stronger as they age. East Khasi hills is a must visit for the root bridges for the most unique root bridges which a world heritage site.

Unlike the concrete bridges which weakens over a period of time, the root bridges of East Khasi hills get stronger as they age. Image credits: Prashanth Krishnan

Tourists visiting the root bridges usually stop in Mawlynnong  for lunch/stay. In spite of being a tourist hot-spot, a strict ban on smoking, plastics and open defecation has ensured that the beauty of Mawlynnong village has never been compromised by littering.

The Living Root Bridge, Meghalaya
Among the most unique bridges in the entire world, these root bridges of East Khasi hills are also a UNESCO world heritage site. Image credits: Prashanth Krishnan

Even today, Mawlynnong has lived up to its reputation and if you are wondering how ‘God’s own garden’ will look like, Mawlynnong is your destination. A “Clean India” starts with a clean home, but that does not mean you would need to litter your surroundings to clean your home. This village has shown us how social unity and people power can make ideal thoughts, a reality and have sent a strong message to India on what it takes to be clean and disease-free. Besides being declared the cleanest village in Asia, Mawlynnong also maintains 100% literacy and has been.

Clean and green Mawlynnong as view from the bamboo skywalk

The Khasi tribes carry on the matrilineal traditions. Children take the surname of their mother and men live in their mother-in-law’s home after marriage. Woman is the head of the family here. With women being discriminated and ill-treated throughout India, we have a lot to learn from the Khasi tribes on how to respect women.

A Tourist from Hawai
Tourists across the world flock this village to study it’s eco-tourism model

Tourists from many countries visit this village to study their model and this small village has made India proud for many reasons.  With an inspiration in our own country, what else can motivate us to stop littering and start conserving our environment?

Getting here – Around 80 to 90 km drive from Shillong, Meghalaya. Nearest airport is Guwahati.

Places to explore in East Khasi Hills –
Living root bridge in Rewai Village
Bangladesh viewpoint/Bamboo Skywalk in Mawlynnong

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