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Hilldaari: A CSR Project Transforming Waste Management in Tourist Hill Stations

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Mussoorie India
 
Hill stations in India attract a significant number of tourists each year, but the rapid growth in tourism has brought about challenges, particularly in waste management. Unsustainable waste management practices in these hill stations have posed threats to the fragile mountain ecosystems and the overall environmental sustainability of these regions.
To address these issues, Nestlé India has extended its support to Project Hilldaari, which aims to develop inclusive, resilient, and sustainable waste management models in popular tourist cities. The project, implemented by Stree Mukti Sanghatana and technically supported by Recity Network Private Limited, is currently implemented in Mussoorie, Dalhousie, Mahabaleshwar, Ponda and Munnar. It has made remarkable progress in transforming waste management through various initiatives.

Diverting Waste from Landfills – Closing a 150-Year-Old Landfill

A primary objective of Project Hilldaari is to divert waste from landfills and direct it to appropriate processing facilities. In Mussoorie, the project successfully closed down Garhikhana, a 150-year-old landfill that was not only polluting the air but also contaminating the Aglar River, the main water source for the city. Through efforts to promote waste segregation, an impressive 80% of the city’s residents now separate their waste. The segregated waste is then sent for recycling and processing to the Sheeshambara Facility in Dehradun, resulting in a total diversion of ~10,000 Metric Tonnes of waste to date.

Influencing Consumer Behaviour

To foster sustainable change, Project Hilldaari focuses on transforming perspectives, habits, and behaviours related to waste among both residents and tourists. The project has strategically installed twin litter bins at key locations to encourage the safe disposal of waste and prevent littering in the valleys. Collaborating with local stakeholders such as NGOs, traders associations, market associations, and schools, it has conducted ~200 clean-up drives, effectively removing 40 MT of waste from hillsides over the past 3.5 years. Extensive behaviour change interventions and awareness campaigns, including door-to-door interventions, sector-specific trainings, and media dissemination, have resulted in over 70% of citizens carefully segregating their waste in their waste in all the 5 cities, Hilldaari is currently operational in. The initiative has also emphasised the importance of four-part segregation, particularly for biomedical waste like masks and gloves, during the pandemic.

Streamlining the Waste Supply Chain

Project Hilldaari recognises the importance of streamlining the entire waste supply chain, from waste collection to disposal, to ensure sustainable waste management. The project established a segregated waste collection infrastructure and trained waste professionals to collect waste in a segregated manner. Cage bins were designed and installed to facilitate segregated storage and transportation of waste. A digital monitoring platform tracks the entire waste journey, allowing for early problem detection and real-time intervention.

Setting a Visual Precedence with Wall Art

Project Hilldaari goes beyond traditional methods of promoting sustainable practices by harnessing the power of art to create a lasting impact and enhance the visual appeal of public spaces. Recognising the ability of art to capture attention and evoke emotions, the project has collaborated with renowned artists to bring 31 unique art pieces to life across Mussoorie and Dalhousie.
In Dalhousie, artists Achintya Malviya and Arun Sharma joined forces to create the captivating ‘I AM HILLDAAR’ series. This collection of murals depicts a captivating story of exploration, highlighting the connection between the citizens and the environment. Through vibrant colours and intricate details, the artwork reflects the natural beauty of the region and portrays the shared responsibility of the community in preserving and nurturing it. The ‘I AM HILLDAAR’ series not only serves as a visual delight but also sparks curiosity and encourages individuals to engage in sustainable practices.
Similarly, in Mussoorie, artist Achintya Malviya took up the brush to create a mural that promotes recycling and environmental conservation. With his creative vision and artistic expertise, Saini brought to life a vibrant and thought-provoking artwork that resonates with the local community and visitors alike. The mural serves as a powerful visual reminder of the importance of waste management and inspires individuals to adopt responsible practices. Its prominent placement in a public space ensures maximum visibility and impact, making it impossible to ignore the message it conveys.
These captivating wall art installations not only fulfil an aesthetic purpose but also play a vital role in creating awareness about waste management and sustainability. By incorporating engaging visuals and compelling narratives, they capture the attention of passersby, encouraging them to pause, reflect, and consider their own impact on the environment. The art pieces serve as powerful conversation starters, initiating dialogues and inspiring individuals to take action in their daily lives.
Furthermore, the wall art installations have become popular photo spots for tourists visiting the cities. The vibrant colours and meaningful messages depicted in the murals make them visually appealing and shareable on social media platforms. Visitors are drawn to these art pieces, capturing memorable moments against the backdrop of creativity and environmental consciousness. The act of sharing these photographs on social media not only generates interest in the cause but also amplifies the message of sustainable practices to a wider audience, both locally and globally.
The strategic placement of these art installations in prominent public spaces ensures maximum visibility and impact. Whether it is on the walls of bustling marketplaces, public parks, or community centres, the art pieces act as beacons of inspiration and catalysts for change. They transform previously mundane spaces into vibrant and engaging areas that captivate the attention of residents and visitors alike. The presence of these thought-provoking artworks in everyday surroundings serves as a constant reminder of the importance of waste management and environmental stewardship.

Recycling Waste to Make Public Infrastructure

As part of its commitment to sustainable practices, Project Hilldaari showcases the immense potential of waste as a valuable resource by incorporating recycled materials into public infrastructure. By doing so, the project not only addresses the issue of waste management but also transforms the appearance of the cities, creating functional and visually appealing spaces.
One of the key initiatives undertaken by Hilldaari is the installation of recycled plastic benches, tiles, and dustbins throughout the the locations. These innovative creations not only provide seating and waste disposal solutions but also serve as tangible symbols of the project’s dedication to sustainability. With 61 recycled plastic benches already installed, made from a total of 4.2 tons of plastic waste, equivalent of recycling 8.4 million chip packets, the project is making a significant impact. These benches not only offer a comfortable seating option for residents and visitors but also serve as a constant reminder of the transformative power of recycling.
In addition to the benches, the project has implemented 3500 square feet of recycled plastic pavement across the cities. This impressive undertaking has allowed for the recycling of approximately 4.4 million milk packets. By utilising recycled plastic in pavement construction, the project not only reduces the environmental impact of waste but also demonstrates the durability and versatility of recycled materials. The recycled plastic pavement not only provides a smooth and sturdy surface for pedestrians but also contributes to the overall aesthetic enhancement of the cities.
Recognising the importance of proper waste disposal, the project has installed 19 dustbins made from ~250 kg of recycled plastic. These robust and eye-catching dustbins not only serve as practical waste collection units but also highlight the value of recycling in waste management. By incorporating recycled plastic into their design, the dustbins act as visual reminders of the importance of responsible waste disposal and contribute to a cleaner and more organised urban environment.
Furthermore, Project Hilldaari has embarked on a unique project to transform non-utilized spaces in Mussoorie, Dalhousie, Munnar, Mahabaleshwar and Ponda by using recycled tires, plastic, and metal. This innovative approach breathes new life into discarded materials while simultaneously revamping the park’s infrastructure. Through creative design and meticulous craftsmanship, the park has been rejuvenated, offering an engaging and environmentally friendly space for the community to enjoy. The use of recycled materials not only reduces the environmental footprint but also serves as an inspiration for visitors, demonstrating the potential for repurposing waste in the creation of functional and aesthetically pleasing public spaces.

Professionalizing Waste Workers

Project Hilldaari recognises the crucial role that waste workers play in the waste management system and aims to improve their working conditions while providing them with formal recognition. The project understands that by empowering waste workers, not only can their livelihoods be enhanced, but the overall efficiency and effectiveness of waste management can also be improved.
Across the five cities where the project operates, a total of 600 waste workers have been transitioned into the formal sector, marking a significant milestone in their professionalisation. By including these workers in the formal sector, they gain access to various benefits, such as health insurance and the necessary protective gear to ensure their safety and well-being while performing their duties. This step not only improves the quality of their work environment but also acknowledges their contributions as valued members of the waste management workforce.
In addition to formalising their status, the initiative actively involves waste workers in behaviour change interventions. By engaging them in educational programs and training sessions, the project equips waste workers with the necessary knowledge and skills to carry out their tasks more effectively. These interventions aim to enhance their understanding of waste segregation, proper handling techniques, and the importance of sustainable waste management practices. By empowering waste workers with the right knowledge, Hilldaari ensures that they can contribute to the overall goal of the project and become ambassadors for sustainable waste management within their communities.
Apart from this, the project recognises and rewards the contributions of waste workers through incentives and increased income opportunities. By partnering with contractors, it creates avenues for waste workers to earn higher wages based on their performance and productivity. This not only motivates them to excel in their work but also provides them with financial stability and improved livelihoods. By linking their income to their performance, the project establishes a system that encourages waste workers to actively participate in maintaining clean and sustainable cities.
In order to formalise their involvement in the waste management system, the project issues occupational ID cards to waste workers. These ID cards serve as official recognition of their profession and grant them access to government schemes and benefits. Through these cards, waste workers can avail themselves of various welfare programs and initiatives designed to support their well-being and improve their socioeconomic conditions. The ID cards also enable waste workers to establish their identity and gain respect and recognition within their communities.
During the challenging times of the COVID-19 pandemic, Project Hilldaari demonstrated its commitment to supporting waste workers. It distributed ration and sanitation kits to these essential workers, ensuring that they had access to essential food supplies and hygiene materials. This support aimed to alleviate the burden on waste workers and safeguard their health and well-being during the pandemic. By providing essential supplies, the project recognised the invaluable contributions of waste workers and stood by them during a time of crisis.

Making a Difference with Collective Change

Project Hilldaari firmly believes in the power of collective effort to bring about positive change in society. Recognising that no single entity or organisation can achieve sustainable development alone, the project has forged partnerships with various stakeholders to create a better world. These partnerships encompass a wide range of entities, including government agencies, urban local bodies, waste worker cooperatives, NGOs, street vendors’ associations, market associations, hotels, and transport unions. By collaborating with diverse organisations and individuals, Hilldaari harnesses the collective strength and expertise of the community to drive meaningful transformation.
One of the notable partnerships that Hilldaari has established is with the community radio station Radio Khushi. This collaboration has allowed Hilldaari to reach a wider audience and disseminate information about waste management practices, environmental conservation, and sustainable living. Through radio programs, discussions, and interviews, Radio Khushi amplifies the message of the project, fostering awareness and inspiring action among its listeners. The partnership with Radio Khushi serves as a valuable platform for engaging the community and encouraging their active participation in the project.
In addition to Radio Khushi, Hilldaari has joined forces with the Green Army in Nainital and Ramaniya Dalhousie. These organisations share a common vision of creating cleaner and more sustainable cities. This collaboration brings together individuals who are passionate about environmental conservation and actively participate in clean-up drives, tree plantation campaigns, and advocacy initiatives. These partnerships demonstrate the initiative’s commitment to fostering a sense of collective responsibility and mobilising local communities to actively contribute to the cleanliness and sustainability of their cities.
Hilldaari’s partnerships extend beyond formal organisations to include community-based associations such as waste worker cooperatives, street vendors’ associations, and market associations. These collaborations are instrumental in engaging and empowering marginalised groups who are directly involved in waste management activities. By working closely with waste worker cooperatives, the project aims to improve the working conditions, livelihoods, and social status of waste workers. The project provides them with training, protective gear, and access to formal sector benefits, thereby recognising their invaluable contributions and supporting their overall well-being.
Collaborations with street vendors’ associations and market associations are equally vital in promoting responsible waste management practices. These associations play a crucial role in raising awareness among their members about proper waste disposal, segregation, and recycling. Through targeted interventions and education campaigns, the project empowers street vendors and market associations to adopt sustainable practices and minimise their environmental footprint. By involving these key stakeholders, the initiative ensures that waste management efforts are integrated into the fabric of daily life and contribute to the overall cleanliness and sustainability of the cities.
Moreover, Hilldaari recognises the significance of partnerships with the hospitality sector, represented by hotels, and the transport sector, represented by transport unions. By collaborating with hotels, the project aims to promote sustainable practices such as reducing food waste, implementing efficient waste management systems, and encouraging responsible tourism. Through workshops, training programs, and awareness campaigns, the project instils a sense of environmental responsibility in hotel staff and guests alike. Similarly, by partnering with transport unions, Hilldaari addresses the challenges of waste management in public transportation and works towards incorporating sustainable waste disposal systems in buses, taxis, and other modes of transport.
Importantly, the partnerships forged by Hilldaari extend beyond the duration of the project itself. The project’s impact is designed to endure even after its activities conclude in the cities. By engaging stakeholders from diverse backgrounds and sectors, the project creates a network of like-minded individuals and organisations committed to sustaining the positive changes achieved. The collaborative spirit fostered through these partnerships ensures that the collective efforts towards cleanliness and sustainability continue long into the future.

Conclusion

The Hilldaari project has made significant strides in transforming waste management practices in the hill stations of Mussoorie, Dalhousie, Mahabaleshwar, Munnar and Ponda. Through its focus on waste diversion, behaviour change, infrastructure development, and the inclusion of waste workers, it has created a sustainable model that can serve as an example for other tourist destinations facing similar waste management challenges. By engaging the community, implementing innovative solutions, and promoting environmental consciousness, the initiative has not only improved the cleanliness and aesthetics of these hill stations but has also contributed to the long-term preservation of their fragile ecosystems. The project’s success highlights the importance of public-private partnerships in driving sustainable change and underscores the potential for collective action to create a greener and more sustainable future. With continued efforts and replication of the Hilldaari model, India’s tourist hill stations can become exemplars of responsible waste management and environmental conservation.