1995 – Richard Wechter, a teacher at Woodstock School, began to privately address the trash-strewn Mussoorie hillsides. Dick choose three young men who happened to be looking for work at the time, and, paying a nominal wage from his own pocket, asked them to clean nallahs around the Mussoorie community. Once there was a pile of garbage along the side of the road, the next logical step was to have those same three men research ways to recycle the material. It was, of course, relatively easy to find a kabadiwala to buy the metal, the unbroken glass, the dry cardboard and newsprint, but any interest in sale of radii (scrap paper), broken glass or hard or soft plastic was more difficult.
2002 – Dick Wechter and those original three workers, with a fourth worker added in maybe 1999 or 2000, continued this loose arrangement until Dick left Woodstock in 2002. As he was leaving, Dick asked Dana Crider if he would be interested in taking up an advisory role for CLEAN, as his environmental push was then known. So, for a couple of years CLEAN (Care for and Learning from the Environment And Nature) sought out interested and ecologically aware citizens of the community to help fund the cleaning of hillsides and nallahs of the area.
2005 – When the opportunity of working under a contract with Woodstock School presented itself, the managing committee of CLEAN was happy to take on numerous tasks in the care of the environment. These tasks included regular waste removal from staff and student residences, as well as removal of wet waste from the school kitchens. The handling of wet waste from dining areas of Woodstock has been a huge challenge, as the daily amounts were so large. The preparation of food would often turn out approximately 50 kgs of compostable waste per day: a manageable amount. But the wastage of food which was served and not consumed, along with the balance of uneaten food on some occasions, would lead to many days of dumping 500 liters of food into an inefficient compost pit area along the bypass road, causing a permeating smell that was unbearable to nearby residents.
One high-point was the donation of a vehicle for the use of CLEAN in transporting collected waste to a sorting shed which Woodstock School made available in the lower campus. Another point to be mentioned was the interest numerous students took in being a part of the process of separating collected dry waste at the shed, and seeing first-hand the transaction of the sale of paper or hard plastic or plastic water bottles or plastic bags on those days when an arranged kapadiwala would weigh it out and pack it into a truck for transporting to a paper plant or to a plastic factory for actual recycling into new newsprint or rerun bags or bottles. It was exciting those years to be able to publicize the annual sale of sometimes 4 or 5 metric tonnes of radii, scrap paper, at a rate of ₹2.50 per kg and collected cardboard of maybe 3 tonnes sold at ₹3 per kg, while crushed Bisleri-type water bottles, without their hard-plastic caps, sold for maybe ₹4 per kg (trivia: how many empty and dry water bottles are needed for a kg?). Yes, we were convinced we were making a positive environmental impact.
Regular meetings by the very active management committee and well conducted AGM’s led to the sustained and successful continued services of CLEAN for the Woodstock community and for numerous households and businesses above the school campus on the Lal Tibba ridge – until a labour dispute, which could honestly have been avoided by better managerial judgement, led to the demise of CLEAN in the late summer of 2010.
2010 – An environmentally concerned citizen of Mussoorie assisted in the registration of KLEEN in September of 2010, and that organization has, to a great extent, worked to continue the sustainable practices of waste management as developed in the years between 2005 and 2010. As the author was not an integral part of the activities of KLEEN, not much can be said beyond the statement that intentions were good, and again the ngo was very integral to the daily addressing of environmental issues in the community around Woodstock School.
2015/16 – A newly constituted committee of highly motivated Mussoorie citizens have assisted in pursuing a new incarnation of the intentions and dreams of Richard Wechter and others for the care of and reclaiming of the environment of Mussoorie. One of the first tasks the workers and committee of KEEN would be the removal of dumped debri below Char Dhukan and that dumped in the nallah to the north of Kellogg Church. A third area would quickly follow: the nallah below the look-out near the graveyard on the back chakkar between St. Pauls Church and Kellogg Church.
Another task was to embrace the repair of and encouraged renewal of correct usage of the steel trash bins along Tehri Road and the Chakkar at the top of our mountain.
We made two main requests as this new NGO gets started –
- Please feel free to email me, the author of this document, firstname.lastname@example.org or Ashok Mahindroo email@example.com or Sunil Panwar firstname.lastname@example.org any waste clean-up tasks you think we should undertake here in Mussoorie.
- Please feel free to correspond with us regarding innovative and sustainable practices of waste management. Our big challenges are the disposal of chip and candy wrappers, tetra packaging, poly-styrene and other non-recyclable materials. We would like to be able to say we do nothing to add to landfill-type solutions.
2016 till 2020 – KEEN is thrilled to reflect on the amazing and sustainable growth experienced in the last four years. In early 2016, KEEN was requested by the Mussoorie Nagar Palika Parishad office to undertake the waste removal of a designated small sector of the town, where there were an estimated 15 hotels and 200 citizen residences. That beginning and the diligence of the small group of workers, 8 men using one vehicle, gained the approval of the town authorities, so that, in incremental steps KEEN now serves as the waste removal service provider of all 13 wards of Mussoorie.
2020 – (August, 2020) The current COVID 19 situation faced by this hill station presents very different and new challenges: as KEEN provides the essential services of systematic waste removal, the use of protective gear, the care of handling of waste, safe exchanges with clients; all these and more challenge the work and commitment of our work crew.
An added current concern is the diminished income potential due to closed hotels and restaurants, and many citizens with limited financial resource to cover costs of services. KEEN is pleased, however, to extend grateful appreciation for the continuing support and commitment of our own local Nagar Palika Parishad officers, as that is what is sustaining us.
– (October, 2020) Hotels and businesses are tentatively opening again in Mussoorie, although the concern about COVID 19 remains an issue. The Waste Workers employed by KEEN are recognized as part of the front line of defense against the spread of the disease, and they are equipped with PPE as required to protect clients and themselves as they handle daily waste collection, transportation, and segregation. KEEN is very grateful for the support of several civic-minded contributors – Nirankari Bhawan of Mussoorie, Rotary Club of Mussoorie, Doon Valley Distillers, several local citizens, and others – of PPE materials and sanitizer for workers to use.