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.
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 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
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
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
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
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
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 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
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
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
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
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.
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.