Promoting sustainable waste management and cleanliness in the Bhagsunag mountains

Promoting sustainable waste management and cleanliness in the Bhagsunag mountains

Project Status: on going

NGO and voluntary organization Waste Warriors located in North India has three ongoing projects in three different places: a city/urban project in Dehradun, a rural/mountain project Dharamshala (Bhagsunag) and near Jim Corbett National Park a waste management service in 30 villages there. McLeod Ganj, close to Bhagsunag, is one of the most popular tourist destinations in India – because of this, the area generates vast amounts of waste. Due to a lack of a proper waste management and disposal system, huge amounts of garbage litter the mountainous landscape.

The mission of Waste Warriors is to create a cleaner and healthier environment by putting proper waste management systems in place, conducting clean-ups, installing dustbins, and raising awareness amongst the community and tourists of the importance of nature conservation, maintaining cleanliness and proper disposal of garbage.

Objectives and Outputs: One of WW initiatives in Dharamsala (Bhagsunag) includes running a door-to-door waste collection service, from businesses and households in Bhagsunag and the surrounding areas, in order to stop open dumping and burning of waste. The next area will be McLeod Ganj, the home of the Dalai Lama, and thus one of the most visited tourist destinations in Himachal Pradesh.


Waste Warriors successfully recruited volunteers to clear and maintain 10 km’s of hiking trails and two popular tourist hot-spots: the Triund mountain camp (about 10,000 visitors each year) and the surrounding hiking trails and the Bhagsu Waterfall, a place used for swimming and washing clothes by the locals. Triund, a remote mountain camp is located a four-hour hike (approx. 13 km) from McLeod Ganj. Triund had been experiencing a major garbage problem due to increased tourism. When WW started the project there were 10,000 visitors per year and no waste management system in place, there are now around 10,000 per month. Waste Warriors put in place a whole waste management system. The mountain itself, the hiking trail including chai shops and guest houses en-route are regularly cleaned and segregated waste is taken back down. As prevention means, a whole network of bags placed at each and every chai shop and guest house, decorated and visually appealing dustbins and signage have been installed at strategic points and are regularly emptied.

As a result, Triund and Bhagsu Waterfall are noted to be two of the cleanest tourist destinations in the country and this sustainable system helps preventing people from dumping their waste in streams and nullahs and burning their garbage, with consequently unaware highly toxic effects on population and pollution of the area and surrounding environment.


Waste Warriors’ success is based on the strong support of its volunteers’ network. In addition, local community members are recruited and participate in all steps of the cleaning operation process; when they see how hard the organisation works to clean-up the surrounding garbage, many of them are inspired and join.

WW runs also door-to-door waste collections system covering 280 homes and businesses. The small monthly donation they contribute with cover the staff salaries of the workers. The success of these collections has been through consistent collaboration with homeowners and business owners. Information meetings and trainings help educate people about the importance of segregating and managing their waste, as well as of the harmful effects of burning waste. WW also run monthly “Children’s Days” – interactive and informative workshops for young people on sustainable waste management. These workshops are organised in collaboration with the communities where WW works, because it is important that these communities understand why we are collecting waste, what we do with the waste, and how the opening dumping and burning of waste is harmful to their health. Field Services and Inter-Cultural Learning organization supports these actions with volunteers work and donations to conducting children’s days or painting awareness raising murals.

As an example of a strong community partnership, the first-ever zero-waste campus in Himachal Pradesh was created, at the Government Senior Secondary School, Mubarikpur. Under this program, a composting unit was built within the campus and 500 students were trained in the concepts of recyclable and non-recyclable waste, and segregation of waste. Though it is impossible to achieve complete “zero” waste per say, due to sanitary products and non-recyclable waste, it is highly beneficial to ensuring that as much waste as possible is utilized through composting and recycling. Moreover, the Dharamsala Municipal Corporation has just accepted to run awareness raising campaigns with the theme of Swachh Bharat (The Prime Minister’s Clean Up India Campaign) and to collaborate with Waste Warriors.


Waste Warriors focus on educating and working with locals and tourists not to throw their waste in nature and to reduce the amount of waste that they produce. As well, an important part of Waste Warriors’ mission is not only to provide sustainable waste management solutions, but also to reduce the social stigma attached to waste workers, and to ensure that waste workers are respected, given the proper equipment they need to carry out their work in a safe manner, and paid fairly.

Another important aspect of our work is educating the next generation about the importance of environmental conservation. We are regularly requested to make visits to schools to conduct workshops on waste management; as well, we hold monthly educational “Children’s Days” in various parts of our community, where we educate young people about waste management in a fun, yet informative way.


The success of WW projects is highly dependent on the support of volunteers. WW offers many opportunities for people who are interested in working with us, and contributing their time towards cleaning up our project locations and the surrounding mountain areas. WW recruits volunteers for our Triund trips, Bhagsu Waterfall clean-ups and regular community clean-up drives every single week. These clean-ups are only possible through the support of our volunteers – many of whom are visiting tourists, from all across India, as well as from abroad. Waste Warriors offers many opportunities for people interested and contributing their time towards cleaning up.

WW advocates for the importance of NOT dumping/throwing your waste on the ground. Promoting this behavior, and sense of responsibility towards the area, is a must when it comes to clearing the vast amounts of garbage that has been irresponsibility throw across the hilltops. Also, if you see an area that is littered with garbage – do something about it! If everyone made a small bit of effort to keeping their surrounding environment and community clean, India would be clean in no time!


Jodie Underhill