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Waste-Free in Just 2 Years. This Tamil Nadu Town Is Showing the Country Just How It Can Be Done!

By installing a comprehensive waste segregation and management system with the help of NGO Hand in Hand, the Tamil Nadu town has managed to go waste-free in just two years.

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In only two years, a town of 5,000 households and 20,000 people has become completely environmentally sustainable and litter-free.

Mahabalipuram, or Mamallapuram as it is also known, is a UNESCO-declared heritage site in Tamil Nadu housing some of South India’s most magnificent temples and other historic monuments of the 7th and 9th centuries. The town is a popular tourist destination attracting thousands of national and international tourists.

It can now add ‘model village for waste management’ to it’s list of attractions as the town has become an example of what can be achieved with a little time and dedication and some simple attitude changes of local residents.

Mamallapuram aka Mahabalipuram has become waste-free. Photo Source: wikimedia

This incredible achievement came about with the help of NGO Hand in Hand India, a Tamil Nadu-based organisation committed to the development of rural areas through a variety of projects. The projects seek to empower people living in rural communities through a ‘bottom-up approach,’ teaching them skills and educating them to become self-sustaining.

General Manager of HiH, V.Parisutham told India Times that it was a long process to convince everyone in the town, and everything including awareness campaigns was built from scratch.


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Here’s what exactly went into it.

With the installation of a waste collection and management system managed by HiH’s solid waste management wing, 85% of the town’s waste is segregated at the source, escaping the landfills, and it’s average daily food waste of 3 metric tons is converted into organic manure in the town’s new compost park.

Every household has been given a green coloured bin for biodegradable waste, a black coloured bin for non-biodegradable waste and a white bag for recyclable waste, and a team of educators and ‘green friends’ have been assigned to each household who educate them of the importance of waste segregation and to collect the segregated waste.

As women in the town handle around 80-90% of the waste generated, ‘lady motivators’ have been employed to help connect with these women and allow them to feel more comfortable and willing to be educated.


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In association with the Mamallapuram Town Panchayat a bio-methanation plant was installed to efficiently manage bio-degradable waste, especially food waste, generated by the hotels in Mamallapuram. With a daily capacity to handle 500kg to 800kg of food waste, the plant converts food waste into methane before converting it into electricity of up to 10 KW per hour. Currently, the electricity generated is used to light up 30 street lights on the East Coast Road.

The town hopes that other cities around India will adopt the same model and work towards becoming waste-free and self-sustaining.

You can find out more about Hand in Hand India, here.

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Written by Lucy Plummer

Born in London, UK, Lucy has traveled the world before falling in love with India during a 9-month backpacking trip in 2016. She’s passionate about humanity, culture, food and mountains.