CLEANEST VILLAGE MAWLYNNONG, MEGHALAYA
While the country struggles with the menace of open defecation, this border village in Meghalaya leads the way. The 95 houses in this village have had functional toilets since 2007. Wicker baskets line the cobbled paths at intervals, often tied to trees or ramparts of houses draped in bougainvillea and orchids. Young men and women periodically sweep the streets. Plastic bags and smoking are prohibited. Large signboards ask visitors not to leave plastic around.
Mawlynnong’s obsession with hygiene began over a century ago, in 1887, when Christian missionaries first set foot here. Though just 90 km from capital Shillong, the village was cut off from the rest of the world and had been struggling with regular plague outbreaks. The missionaries offered a simple solution—cleanliness. Since then, the village has practised this with a missionary zeal. “It’s everyone’s habit—since childhood we have been taught at home, in schools and in the church to maintain cleanliness to remain healthy,” says headman Thomlin Khongthohrem.
Since 2003, when a pucca road connected the village to the rest of the world, there has been a steady increase in tourists. “I hope everyone in India learns that if we nurture cleanliness as a habit, the government won’t need to spend crores for Swachhata missions,” says Grace Mary Kharpuri, a member of the district council.