In the past few decades, the dramatic rise in population and illegal waste disposal techniques have had a major impact on the lakes and rivers of India. While the government pledges to fix the issues and focus on clearing out the already lifeless lakes, their assurances keep fading away like the lakes and the precious water. With the current population standing at 1.339 billion, the Wall Street Journal reports that India has the highest number of people without access to safe water. The country has 75.8 million people, at least 5% of its population, without access to clean water. When no one else is taking any action to save the country’s precious lakes, one man is determined to be the change.
Ramveer Tanwar, a 26-year-old from Dadha village in Greater Noida, India, was moved by the plight of lakes.
The young man, a Bachelor of Technology (B.Tech) student, noticed that most of the land’s lakes and rivers were becoming more of a dumping ground. Upset by the sight of this and understanding the severity of the situation, he was determined to be the change that he wanted to see. Mr. Tanwar, who was from the small village, started holding meetings where he would educate the locals about the consequences of their actions.
Every Sunday he continued his meetings, where he would teach techniques to discard waste materials properly, as well as the benefits of doing so. Mr. Tanwar, who is an engineer by profession, has always been passionate about water conservation, even as a student.
During his graduate years, Mr. Tanwar started a campaign in the district of Uttar Pradesh, urging people to conserve water.
One of the major causes of water wastage included people leaving their taps open for long periods of time, even when they were not using them. This occurred mainly with households and Mr. Tanwar tried to motivate people to stop such behavior. When his initial plea was failing to get any attention, he decided to gather his students, as well as interested villagers, and held conferences. In the meetings, Mr. Tanwar made everyone aware of the issues and also made them understand that wasting water today will have an adverse effect on them tomorrow.
“I used to provide tuitions to students in the area, and told them to convince their parents not to waste water, but to no avail. People said that water is never going to end and will always be available. I went from one household to another and conducted meetings and rallies to reach out to more people. People never took water crisis seriously before, but were gradually beginning to understand that water is not an unending resource”, said Mr. Tanwar.
These gatherings organized by Mr. Tanwar are termed as ‘Jal Choupals’. In the beginning, when Mr. Tanwar attempted to revive lifeless lakes, he was denied any funds or help by the town officials. However, with the help of a few villagers and students, he managed to completely revive a local pond. This gained him attention and people started realizing that change was necessary for their survival.
By 2015, many started reaching out to him, asking to be volunteers to help with his next project. As time went on, the numbers kept growing and more lakes and ponds were being revived.
Mr. Tanwar noticed that all the lifeless lakes had one thing in common. They were being used as dumping grounds and the floating waste was limiting the water from being exposed to air or sunlight. This was destroying the eco-system within these lakes as well as any fish habitat.
With the help of volunteers, donors and NGO, Mr. Tanwar began his dream of reviving the lakes. The first step was to clear out the standing waste and prevent anyone else from using the lake as a dumping area.
After clearing out the standing waste and plastic pollutants, Mr. Tanwar would setup filtration systems. He also utilized the help of fish to remove finer garbage particles. However, the toughest part of his initiative is collecting funds to continue the process. Although well-wishers and villagers contribute to make a change, it’s still not enough to fund major projects. In order to keep his dreams alive, Mr. Tanwar had to change several jobs. Today, he works from 5 AM to 2 PM and uses the rest of the day to hold meetings and to clear our lakes.
A portion of his monthly income also goes towards building filtration systems and renting heavy machinery to clean the lakes. The filtration systems catching trash also have to be cleaned on a weekly basis and is performed by Mr. Tanwar and his volunteers.
Finally, after several ponds and lakes were restored to their former glory, the government of Uttar Pradesh decided to step in and help the movement. The “Bhujal Sena” (Groundwater Army) are a team of volunteers in each district of the state that perform restoration processes and Mr. Tanwar is the coordinator of his district.
Although his efforts are paying off and is helping local communities, the government provides no funds to support the program. The BBC reports that India is facing its worst water crisis in history. The Niti Aayog report, which draws on data from 24 of India’s 29 states, shows that in the coming years, the crisis will only get worse. The report also warns that by 2020, 21 cities are likely to run out of groundwater.
The shortage of groundwater could directly affect agriculture and farming, thus threatening communities that depend on it. Some states and cities also lack the infrastructure to deliver clean water to all homes, which causes towns to regularly run out of water during the summer months.
Most communities also rely on private water suppliers or tankers that are paid for by the government. In order to collect water to cook and drink, some people in the communities have to form lines and wait for hours at a time. The report also shows that although some states are poor at managing water, there are many that are extremely conservative and making changes.
Today, Mr. Tanwar is one of many who are trying to be the change they hope to see. His efforts have inspired many to start the program in their state. Another campaign Mr. Tanwar has started is the #SelfieWithPond, where he hopes to connect the youth with small water bodies that are being converted into dumping grounds. Within a few months, the campaign has seen success all around the world. According to Mr. Tanwar himself, the campaign is now taking place in India as well as nine other countries.