<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>For artists making nature a theme for their art, this tiny village of 500 souls nestled amongst lush green forests in a remote corner in south of Meghalaya, along the Indo-Bangladesh border, is a perfect destination.Situated in the East Khasi Hill district, the village is famous for its cleanliness and of late has become an attraction point for central and various state government officials to learn tricks to make Prime Minister Narenda Modi’s ‘Swachh Bharat Abhiyan’ (Clean India Mission) successful.Functional toilets in every household, no stray animals on the streets, paved pathways, solar-lit streets and bamboo dustbins at every corner, the village, nick-named as God’s Own Garden, is consistently working to retain its prestigious tag of the cleanest village of Asia; conferred on it in 2003. No traces of fallen and dry leaves can be seen as they go straight into a dustbin. Not only are plastic bags banned, but smoking is also prohibited in this village. The rules are strictly followed and the defaulters are heavily charged.The story began some 29 years ago when a primary school teacher, Rishot Khongthohrem, concerned at the successive epidemics that had consumed lives of many children in 1988, proposed to launch a cleanliness drive. “There were sceptics in the village executive committee who dismissed the idea as impractical. But Rishot insisted and proposed a comprehensive plan,” said member of the village committee, Lamphrang, also a retired teacher.The village headman, Banjop Thiaw, teaches government officials and scores of voluntary organisations, which can be touted as pf the secrets behind the successful accomplishment of a swachh mission in the village.Sitting cozy outside his tidy home, villager Enes Khonglamet recalls how after the village committee had launched the cleanliness drive in 1988, within two years the streets and houses had become spic-and-span. The first order came to put animals in enclosures, whether domesticated or stray. Then every household was told to construct toilets alongwith septic tanks and then were asked to attend to kitchen waste. All 97 houses in the village have septic and compost pits dug in the adjoining garden.”It is mandatory for every household to segregate organic waste from plastics etc. The organic waste is placed in the compost pit that converts it into manure, which is later used in the fields. The inorganic waste is collected in a large bamboo waste box, which is transported to Shillong once a month, and is handed over to a recycling plant,” says Lamphrang.One of the farmers Khonglamet recalls that there was lot of opposition, as poor villagers had to use their meagre resources to build all these things. But looking back, he recalls with sparkles in his eyes that cleanliness has brought fortunes and pots of money to the village.”It is become a big tourist attraction now. During the peak season, 2,000-odd tourists visit the village on a daily basis,” he said. Khonglamet hopes that his son who is studying commerce in Shillong will return to set up a tourist related business here.”We charge every vehicle Rs 50 for entering the village. Therefore, we are self-sufficient to repair and attend to maintenance of pathways. There are 22 guest houses in the village that have 100 per cent occupancy between May and September. Also there are seven eateries which serve village organic food. The village is connected to nearby Rawa village through a unique Living Root Bridges which has been declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Hanging on a river, the bridges are made by connecting the aerial roots of seven massive rubber trees with each other.Asked if the experiment of Mawlynnong has been replicated elsewhere, Lamprang tells DNA, “Meghalaya government had tried to convince other villages and had even offered incentives. Other village heads had attempted the cleanliness drive to lure tourists and raise income of their village, but you know sanitation is not about money, but changing the habit of people. We succeeded changing the social habits of people. No amount of force, but only cajoling and their own understanding can bring changes in habits. As you know, old habits die hard.”

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Meghalaya village stays Asia’s cleanest