How Campaign was started from a small Village?
Tanwar started off by giving lessons to kids from his village, who began to feel like they had to do something about their dying water sources. Their new teacher told them to warn their parents about the existing problem of pollution and water conservation. Sadly, this didn’t work at first since the adults in the village refused to believe that they could ever run out of water. Fortunately, Tanwar isn’t the type of guy who gives up on what he believes in. He decided that he had to do this on his own and went from house to house, to each and every resident, to explain the gravity of the issue when it comes to depleting water resources.
Later, he told the students to come with their parents every Sunday to a special place where he’d facilitate a discussion and suggest methods to conserve water. The message finally started to sink in, and the villagers were really starting to grasp the problem they were facing. His effort was recognized by the district authorities, and these community meetings were officially called “Jal Chaupals.”
In 2015, Ramveer and his team of volunteers, students, and their parents removed all the garbage from the first pond. Not only did they clean it, they also planted some trees around it. Later on, they invited the local administration to come and see the glorious restoration.
The good news spread fast and soon enough, people from other villages and districts started to come to Tanwar to ask for help with the restoration of their local lakes. Thanks to the efforts of many volunteers and enthusiasts, dozens of lakes and ponds have been restored throughout India.
The most important thing in cleaning these bodies of water to prevent further pollution. The activists can’t stop people from dumping waste out of their homes altogether, so once the water has been cleaned, the team digs out a separate pit with a wooden mesh to collect garbage. They then install a double filtration system with a filter made of wooden planks and a patch of different grasses to prevent bigger and smaller pieces of garbage from making their way into the water in the future.
Volunteers clean these pits and filters once a week. As for smaller waist, they’ve made an agreement with fish farmers to raise at least 10,000 slush-eating fish to take care of those finer waste particles.
According to a June 2018 report by government think tank NITI Aayog, India is facing the “worst water crisis in its history,” with some 600 million people suffering severe water shortage, and approximately 200,000 people dying as a result of lack of access to clean drinking water each year. This worrying situation is “only going to get worse” in the coming years—21 cities around India will possibly be exhausted of groundwater by 2020. And by 2030, half of the Indian population will not have access to drinking water.
In a big city like Noida, there are no more ponds as all of them have been encroached upon. This is a dangerous trend and if it continues will leave no ponds, which are most the potent water bodies for groundwater recharge. People must stop disposing waste in ponds and lakes and encroaching upon them, as this is gradually pointing us towards the end of groundwater resources in India.”
Ramveer and his team of core members and volunteers have revived over ten lakes so far, since their collaborative efforts that began in 2014. The revival of a lake takes anywhere between Rs 2 to Rs 25 lakh, depending on its size,” says Ramveer. “I used to shell out money from my pocket. My friends who are active in the cause also contributed equally. One of them is a lawyer, one is an engineer like me and we all have regular jobs. After we return from the office and on weekends, we spend most of our time on this cause. But to become more financially sustainable, we have started approaching organizations to make use of their CSR activities. That is a lucrative source that we are currently looking into.”But what is even more interesting is how Ramveer and his team involve villagers in cleaning the lakes in their localities. Whether it is by asking for labor or equipment, they ensure that the cleanliness and revival drives are not ‘by some outsider’. On average, the team extracts 500-1000 kg of plastic per hectare of land from each lake. While the plastic is sent for recycling after the revival, it demands the question as to why it landed there in the first place. Perhaps we need to rethink our garbage disposal methods, so it doesn’t directly harm the water bodies that benefit fishers and farmers. To ensure that their efforts are sustained after revival, fishers from the local communities are given the responsibility of the lake.