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Sikkim diaries: “Clean & Green”, not just on paper

A team of roughly 30 students from our University visited Sikkim (a state in the northeastern part of India) in early October to learn about the State’s organic farming policies and practices, as part of our Food Security & Agriculture course. Sikkim has had a state policy for ensuring organic produce and in early 2016 announced itself to be India’s first “100% organic state”.

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Waste segregation at a small restaurant – Ravangla, Sikkim
Sponsored by a combination of National and State missions – Buddha Park of Ravangla

(Note: These are some general non-participant observations during our 1 week field trip to Sikkim, no literature or field research was conducted for the blog.)

We visited 2 towns; stayed in Namchi and visited Jorethang quite often, and both towns were similar in terms of cleanliness. The streets were washed clean, gutters were maintained (no overflow), clean footpaths, and traffic congestion was minimal. The footpaths were quite broad, more so in certain places giving way for more pedestrian and bicycles. Waste bins were found at regular intervals for waste disposal. We also visited 3 villages and drove through several of them on our way during the 1 week. The villages had dustbins at regular intervals, some of them even had waste segregation signs showing how waste should be segregated into different categories. Some bins were made out of cane instead of plastic (more for sustainability). In general, villages are considered to be cleaner compared to towns and cities as less products are consumed and lesser waste is produced by people, but the villages of Sikkim seemed way cleaner than those I have been in Odisha and Tamil Nadu earlier this year.

Waste segregation into 8 types – SIRD campus

The latest National Sample Survey Office (NSSO) data showed that Sikkim is the cleanest state in India, with 98.2% of households having “access” to and “using” toilets in their homes and 100% of them using community toilets. Note that this finding is not only recent with the introduction of the country’s Swacch Bharat Mission, as the state was already announced as the cleanest in India in early 2014.

Some wast bins are locally sponsored by nearby institutions

Policies are adapted to regional situations but their implementation often seems uneven across that particular region. For instance, a town or city may have a cleaner areas due to business parks or residential communities that can afford to pay for waste management infrastructure, compared to surrounding spaces that are ‘public’. In the case of Sikkim, there was consistency when it came to waste management – what I mean is whether you visited a city, a town, small village, or even drive around its mountains, one would notice the same amount of cleanliness throughout, dustbins everywhere (even though waste segregation was found in some places not all), etc. 

Hillside in between villages

Cleanliness campaigns did not depend on the area in question – whether it is occupied by high tax paying urban residents, or by government officials, or whether it was a government campus or not. Private businesses and civil society play a key role in ensuring adequate waste management standard; consider the case of several waste management companies in Indian cities or Resident Welfare Associations (like in Delhi) or cooperatives organized by resident ci

Town streets – Namchi, Sikkim

tizens. However, the case of Sikkim shows that the State (in Weberian terms), has played a larger role in ensuring waste management, sanitation, and cleanliness. The “tone at the top” was apparent with excellent waste segregation done in State campuses (see State Institute of Rural Development) as well as tourist spots (pictures attached for both).


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