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Lachung – a northeast Indian paradise with an eco-friendly soul

The misty, romantic hamlet, Lachung, home to numerous orchards and breathtaking views, has gone green. Read on to see how the town eliminated one-time use plastic and came up with alternative solutions to this huge problem faced by cities big and small, across the world.

That might is not always needed to do what is right, was proved by a tiny little village nestled among the lush mountains and serene vales of northern Sikkim. Simple changes in habit, unity, and common intent are all it takes to do it.

At a time when the problem of disposing off plastic waste has nearly brought the whole world to its knees, one hears stories of little endeavors here and there, which are making a difference in their own way. One such example is that of the lovely town named Lachung, which sees considerable tourist footfall.

A very attractive slice of land about six hours by road from Gangtok, Lachung is as idyllic a place as they come. The long winding road with mesmerizing scenery on all sides leads to the little village perched on the banks of the Lachung River.  It is a friendly village that has opened its arms to visitors who come to enjoy the serenity of their land. However, the residents soon realized that, with tourists came a huge amount of plastic waste. Waste, which ended up in the various water bodies of their town, affecting not only the aesthetic beauty of the place, but also the environment. The villagers soon bandied together with their local leaders and decided to bring in, and implement, a ban on single-use plastics in their hometown. Moreover, they provided simple and practical solutions to the immediate problems this rule would create. While the signage provided by the government is warning enough, the villagers have taken it upon themselves to see to it that this law is followed by everyone entering their village. Every taxi driver that ferries tourists inside, informs them about the ban, and makes sure that nobody carries plastic into the town limits. Along with this comes the handy solution of purchasing eco-friendly bamboo bottles, which have been made available in plenty. Hotels also provide their guests with another alternative: they can get water bottles from the hotels for the duration of their stay for a fee. These are returnable, and an amount is paid back to the guest at the time of return. Tourists’ bags are checked in order to ensure nothing sneaks past on the way in. On the off chance that plastic does slip in, a hefty fine is levied on the law-breaker, and the offending article is confiscated. Whatever plastic is collected in this way gets recycled instead of getting dumped. Thus, the whole process is eco-friendly.

The villagers take pride in their land, and are mindful of their actions. It is their awareness that has enabled them to harness their collective energies into implementing this law so successfully and effectively over a short period of time. The onus of keeping their hometown clean is on everyone; every tourist is made aware, and held accountable for their actions. This clarity of vision and intent has today resulted in Lachung being one of the cleanest towns in India, and is almost completely devoid of single-use plastic.

Shruti Padmakumar