A Cleaner, Greener Mussoorie – Thanks to the Nestle Hilldaari

posted in: Asia, Art & People, Uttarakhand | 32

It wasn’t my first visit to the Queen of Hills – Mussoorie. However, it did feel like my maiden visit. Thanks to the Hilldaari movement, one of the initiatives by Nestle India which I was invited to witness, this time I was looking at Mussoorie through a different lens. The Nestle India  Hilldaari showcased how the collective efforts of a community can bring forth positive progress. Watching it in person was quite heartwarming but what compelled me to put forward this story was the progress continued unhindered through the lockdown in 2020. If anything else, it was stronger than before.

Cleaner Greener Mussoorie - Thanks to Nestle Hilldaari
Cleaner Greener Mussoorie – Thanks to Nestle Hilldaari

With this blog post, I share the story of the Nestle India  Hilldaari project. It is a tale of sheer determination on the part of individuals and the stakeholders driving it to make a difference to their own town. Such was their will to make a change that the motivated team overcame the obstacles of social distancing and a complete lockdown with innovative solutions. These solutions actually gave them even better results than what I had witnessed during my visit in 2019.

Through this story, you will also find ways as a traveler, to help further the local efforts. And for many looking to make positive changes in their own communities, this is a great case-study. Personally, for me, it adds to the lure of Mussoorie as a travel destination.

What is the Nestle India  Hilldaari project?

Hilldaari comes from the word – Dildaari (heartening) or Zimmedaari (responsibility). The initiative aims at a cleaner town of Mussoorie through proper waste disposal. The project begins with the collection of different waste products from individual homes and institutions, moves to segregating them and finally, disposing of each category of waste in the right manner. What makes this project admirable is that the entire chain of waste collection and disposal is monitored digitally – allowing the stakeholders to fill up any gaps in the process and also, track the effectiveness of the system.

The Nestle Hilldaari project was first launched in Mussoorie
The Nestle Hilldaari project was first launched in Mussoorie

The Hilldaari movement has been promoted and supported by Nestle India. This CSR initiative of Nestle India is about not just teaching the hill town how to effectively manage the waste but also, giving them all the reins so that it becomes a self-sustaining model. With over one year in Mussoorie, the Nestle India  Hilldaari movement has seen a fair bit progress  – enough for it to be taken forward in other hill stations like Dalhousie and Nainital.

Stakeholders in the Nestle India  Hilldaari initiative

Vehicle and on-ground support provided by the local NGO - KEEN
Vehicle and on-ground support provided by the local NGO – KEEN

While Nestle India might have been the driving force behind the Hilldaari movement, none of it would have been possible without the cumulative efforts of the authorities and certain local bodies. In Mussoorie, these are the main stakeholders:

Recity- Technical partner

Tying up all the stakeholders at the ground level with Nestle India would not have been possible without the help of the implementation partner – Recity. The organization has been key to understanding the ground mechanics in Mussoorie, identifying the problem areas, providing the solutions, roping in the civic authorities and ensuring that the whole process becomes sustainable.

Stree Mukti Sanghatana – Implementation partner

The NGO ensured that not only are the waste collectors, garbage segregators and cleaners well trained but are given their due respect and position in the society – eventually making them proud of what they do!

KEEN – local NGO partner

Kleen now renamed as KEEN (Keeping the Environment Ecologically Natural) are instrumental in providing the ground-level support for the Hilldaari initiative

Witnessing the Ground Reality of the Hilldaari project

During my trip to Mussoorie, the Nestle India  Hilldaari team helped me understand and even see the entire process of waste collection. I met with numerous stakeholders and spoke to the ground level staff that included the garbage collectors and cleaners. In fact, I even shadowed them. To give you a gist, this is how the entire project has been managed.

Educating the townspeople

Waste segregation done at the source itself
Waste segregation done at the source itself

The team undertook a massive exercise to make the residents aware of the need to separate their waste. While the Recity team and various volunteers did their bit of talking to the individual homes, they also, set up QR codes on their gates and front doors. Since the segregation of waste at source is the prime agenda, it is easier for the collector to ensure that waste gets processed as per its category rather than segregating the entire waste in one place.

Empowering the ground level staff

Equipping the ground level workers with a mobile and safety equipment
Equipping the ground level workers with a mobile and safety equipment

The garbage collectors were empowered to go beyond the duty of collection. These collectors were given a mobile phone with an app to scan the QR code of every house they visited and mark if the home had done its duty.

Segregating the waste to the end of life

Sorting the waste into various categories at the collection center
Sorting the waste into various categories at the collection center

The waste collected from the city traveled to a central waste segregation unit. While the wet waste sent to compost pits, the dry waste was further sorted out into three categories.

  • The High Value Waste – which include plastic bottles, cans and boxes. These were taken by the collectors and sold to recycling units.
  • The low-value waste – Small plastic bags, toffee wrappers etc. formed this part of the trash. This was sent to the cement kills for their end of life.
  • No-value waste – The Hilldaari project found some value in these too. Typically, in most places, this kind of waste is just incinerated. However, the team here managed to get a vendor in Dehra Dun. The waste was sold to him to make the very bricks that paved the various paths of Mussoorie.

Clean-up drives in the tourist spots of Mussoorie

A Mussoorie Clean-Up Drive in progress
A Mussoorie Clean-Up Drive in progress

The Hilldaari team works with different NGOs and institutions on clean-up drives at various tourist spots of Mussoorie. I witnessed one near the Mussoorie lake by Scrambling Adventures. It was quite a sight to see a team of volunteers rappel down the hilly slopes to collect the trash carelessly thrown by the tourists. What is appalling is that just one-fourth of the trash collected in a small section weighed 7.5 kgs.

It goes to show how we as travelers, have caused a green town to be covered with plastic. Through this visit and post, I hope that my readers take note and do their bit towards the destinations that they visit in the future. 

Monitoring the waste disposal system

Every step of the waste collection is monitored electronically by the Hilldaari team. The team knows where the trash is not properly segregated owing to the QR codes scanned by the garbage collectors. They know how much trash has been collected in each area. The same dashboard also, gives out details on how the waste has been handled. This was devised as a key step towards making the Nestle India  Hilldaari initiative from a project to a self-sustaining way of life in Mussoorie.

Elevating the status of the ground staff through Deewaron pe Dastak

Deewaron pe Dastak with Krishna Ji - proudly posing in front of her own street art
Deewaron pe Dastak with Krishna Ji – proudly posing in front of her own street art

Deewaron pe Dastak literally means “Knock on the Walls.” This aspect of the Hilldaari movement involved recognizing and decorating the heroes of the movement – viz the trash collectors, the garbage vehicle drivers, the street cleaners, the sewage workers and the garbage sorters. It celebrates their occupation and helps them get dignity and standing in society.  All it involved was showcasing these heroes of the street on the public walls of Mussoorie.

Symbolizing the message through The Wall of Hope

The Wall of Hope - symbolizing how waste can be reused
The Wall of Hope – symbolizing how waste can be reused

A little ahead of the famous Mussoorie tourist spot – Kempty falls, is a small hamlet called Bungalow ki Kandi. Standing tall in this village is 150 feet long and a 12 feet high Wall of Hope – made from 15,000 plastic bottles collected by the Nestle India  Hilldaari team.

Conceptualized by the Museum of Goa team, the wall was built by 50 volunteers with plastic bottles collected from hotels, rag pickers and various homes. The Wall of Hope has been the backdrop of many gatherings in Mussoorie. In each event, it has symbolized that one single message of how one needs to reduce the use of plastic.

Expanding Nestle India  Hilldaari to Dalhousie and Nainital

Pretty corners with recycled benches created in Dalhousie through the Nestle Hilldaari initiative
Pretty corners with recycled benches created in Dalhousie through the Nestle Hilldaari initiative

With the success of its pilot project in Mussoorie, the Nestle India  Hilldaari project has started working its magic in Dalhousie and Nainital. Recity and Stree Mukti Sanghatan continue the motivate and empower the ground teams along with the Urban Local bodies and the NGOs. Initiatives like the Deewaron pe Dastak and the Wall of Hope have been conceptualized to remind the residents and the visitors on how waste when effectively managed can be productive. Personally, I cannot wait to visit these two hillstations and see the progress – one that has not stopped even with the lockdown in force.

Nestle India  Hilldaari during the lockdown

Such is the zest and zeal of the Nestle India  Hilldaari team that not even the countrywide lockdown could stop them.  I visited Mussoorie in October 2019 and last week, the team shared how the movement was going strong even in these troubled times.

Education of the Residents

The worldwide pandemic brought in an incessant need for sanitization. The three-part segregation of waste that was being practiced by the residents had to be changed to four-parts – with the bio-waste forming the new section. Thanks to the QR code and digital interfaces, most of the data points were already available to the Hilldaari volunteers – allowing them to spread the message via telecalling. In addition to that, the team educated the residents through flyers, radio, telephone, and even loudspeakers.

Training the Ground staff

Physical training had to be changed to virtual classrooms during the lockdown
Physical training had to be changed to virtual classrooms during the lockdown

New norms of social distancing needed to be shared with the workers. They needed to be told to reduce contact. Why masks were necessary and how the fourth section of garbage – the biowaste, was to be handled mandated a need for training. The Recity and Stree Mukti Sanghatan took to the virtual world to communicate and update their team of workers.

Ensuring Personal Safety of the Workers

Ensuring the safety of the workers during the lockdown through Nestle Hilldaari
Ensuring the safety of the workers during the lockdown through Nestle Hilldaari

While the workers were told about what were the new norms of hygiene and personal safety, they were also, equipped for the same. The Hilldaari movement has ensured that the PPE kits required for the additional safety of around 285 workers were sent to all three locations. This kit had all the products required for the personal safety and hygiene of the worker and his family of four.

 Social Security & Recognition for the Ground level workers

Special permissions and IDs were required for these ground staff to continue their work. This is when the teams worked with the authorities to give out new occupational ids. This helped the workers also, get recognition in the society.

These workers were even felicitated for their hard work and for being front runners in troubled times like these. In addition to this, the workers also, got access to insurance policies and various Government social security schemes.

Digital Monitoring

A Waster Collector scanning the QR Code on the Doors
A Waster Collector scanning the QR Code on the Doors

The digital mapping of waste generators helped the team map the entire town. Through the app, they were able to set up daily targets for the workers and monitor their efforts. It was possible for them to now offer performance-based incentives. The virtual interface was connected to the workers’accounts  – thus making payments quicker and far more seamless.

For the stakeholders,  the digital app helped reduce the overall expenses. It also, helped them monetize the waste properly, thus adding to the overall revenue of the ULB.

The quick response to the new scenario helped the Nestle India  Hilldaari movement to keep up its good work. The workforce with their extra training and protective gear continued their work while practicing the basic norms of social distancing. Together with the residents, the teams continue to make these locations cleaner and greener – one that promises to be even better than my last visit in 2019.

What can you do as a traveler to help the Nestle India  Hilldaari initiative?

This advice goes out to all my readers traveling to not just the Nestle India  Hilldaari locations – but any destination across the world.

  • Carry a refillable water bottle. Avoid the use of plastic bottles.
  • Please do not litter. If you have any personal trash, stow it away in your own bags. I normally keep a spare trash bag in my backpack to hold onto my trash till I get to a dustbin. As far as possible, I also, try and keep it segregated.
  • Banana peels, fruit cores etc maybe organic but it is imperative that you throw them in the bins rather than just around the place.
  • Spread the message far and wide
  • Share a word of encouragement when you see the heroes of the road.

And finally, pin this to your board as an example of how a collective effort of the community and its stakeholders can make the world a better place!

P.S: I was invited to witness the Nestle Hilldaari Project in October 2019. However, all the views and opinions stated in the blog post are truly and honestly my own.

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32 Responses

  1. Ann

    How peculiar, I have never heard of the Nestle India Hilldaari project even though I feel like I should have. I love this initiative and waste that is not being disposed of properly is becoming a huge issue. So this initiative could not have come at a better time and place. I love how you chose to include it in your post and help spread awareness. Would love to read more about this in future travel blogs.

    • Ami

      The Nestle initiative has definitely made me want to go and see the change in the other places. Some day soon, I shall get to it.

  2. Linda (LD Holland)

    It was great to read about the Nestle Hilldaari Project. Amazing that it continues through the pandemic and the results are visible. Always good to hear about corporate sponsors like Nestle that actually help to make things better. But better to see there is a whole group that was engaged in ensuring the success. And the digital monitoring is quite unique. I have always believed that you can’t manage what you can’t measure!

    • Stephanie

      What an incredible initiative and it’s awesome that you’re shedding light on it. I actually was wondering about the safety procedures now given the COVID19 pandemic, so I was eager to see the section on safety precautions. It’s great that the garbage collectors are getting access to appropriate PPE. I think it’s awesome that collectors can also scan QR codes and homes to see who is properly participating and who is not. How exciting! I’m going to share this with some of my colleagues who are science teachers. Thanks!

    • Ami

      Indeed, only when you measure something, do you realize how well it has fared. And if there are gaps, they are visible for us to repair. The Nestle hilldaari’s monitoring just does that. Am glad that I got to see this initiative on ground for myself.

  3. Nina Bosken

    Wow this is such a cool project. It’s awesome that the people in this community are being empowered and given the tools to make it better! The more we reduce waste and recycle, the better the planet is!

  4. Aradhana

    It’s great to see such initiatives backed by brands such as Nestle, doing their bit particularly in tourist spots like Mussoorie. Environment and ecology are the next big investments we ought to make as a country and even worldwide, covid 19 outbreak is just the tip of the iceberg if we don’t act fast … And to see such initiatives booming in a country like ours, that too mainstream tourist hotspot, is heartening.

    • Ami

      Seeing it for myself was quite an experience but to know that those efforts have continued and in a much better way makes me even more happy that I was a part of this in some way.

  5. Raksha

    Hilldaari is such a cool project. I am in love with Nestle a little more because of these amazing initiatives. It is so important to work towards the cleanliness drive and take our steps towards sustainable tourism. Especially after this pandemic, it has become even more crucial to take responsibility. I have never been to Mussoorie or Nainital, would love to go visit them and see these things on my own. That wall of hope is such a beautiful concept.

    • Ami

      I could see the difference in Mussoorie before I Hilldaari and later. Trust me, there is a significant amt of work here. And discovering the wall of hope was just amazing !

  6. blair villanueva

    This is one of the best sustainability travel stories I’ve read. I admire this amazing initiative project by Nestle India and how they contribute to the community. Waste is a huge problem worldwide, and we can make a difference and start from a small community and influence the others.

    • Ami

      Indeed, small beginnings can give rise to bigger waves. Hoping that the other communities get inspired by this story

  7. Lourdes

    What a great cause! I love that you decided to share it with the world. I love that it’s not just about recycling or just about cleaning, but instead, it is about appealing to the conscience of locals and visitors.

  8. Bolupe

    Such an inspiring initiative by Nestle India. Those communities will feel and remember the positive impact for a long time. It is always great to see brands work collectively with local communities for the greater good.

    • Debjani Lahiri

      When I saw all the post of yours along with couple of other bloggers one. I was elated that Nestle CSR Is plunging into new heights and this being such a noble cause . I gusss more and more such intiatives should be highlighted by travel influencers . Very rightly conceptualized as a responsible intiative towards a cleaner Mussoorie .

      • Ami

        Thanks Debjani. I hope more people take initiatives of this sort and I also, hope travelers do their bit when they visit other places.

    • Ami

      The project would not have been possible without this collective effort. Am glad to have seen it for myself.

  9. Subhashish Roy

    Nestle Hilldaari project is such a wonderful initiative. Hope they launch in all other hill stations in India too after knowing more about what exactly is being done. Incidentally Mussoorie is one of the few hill stations that I am yet to visit although have been to Dehradun so many times on work.

  10. Anda

    Very ingenious project! I’d love to see other cities around the world taking this initiative to improve the appearance and cleanness of their neighborhoods through proper waste disposal. Nestle Hilldaari is probably not the first project of this kind in the world, but it’s definitely a good idea.

    • Ami

      I do hope many more such initiatives happen and also, that smaller communities take this one as a case study to make the change.

  11. Bhushavali N

    Wow! That’s quite an impressive feat. I can imagine the most challenging part of the whole initiative to be educating the people and getting everyone onboard to segregate waste. Its something that most governments all over the world still struggle with. Getting bricks made out of no-value waste is very innovative! Good to know the extension of their project in lockdown to educate the locals about the pandemic & safeguard themselves.

    • Ami

      Trust me Bhushavali. When I saw the movement and its success, I was so amazed and to see it succeed even in lockdown, it is just admirable.

  12. Clarice

    This is definitely one great initiative from Nestle and we definitely need more projects like this. I also believe that being able to empower the ground level staff/ community is the key to success.

    Their wall of hope is beautiful. Thank you for sharing this and well as for sharing tips on what I can personally do. Shared this post to help spread awareness.

  13. Yukti Agrawal

    I really love Mussorie as it is really very beautiful and known as queen of hills too. Good to know Nestle Hilldari project of cleanliness and how they recycle waste. Also with their partner Recity they made aware the locals about waste management is really impressive. They are using advanced level too by digitally monitoring.

    • Ami

      The digital monitoring is the one that makes the whole process so robust. The case-study is truly inspiring.

  14. Pawan Ranta

    A great initiative by Nestle. Nestle is actually the world’s largest producer of bottled water. Companies like Nestle and Uniliver have to kill the plastic monster that they have created. Thanks for the article.

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