How often do you come across lakes and ponds in your locality covered with filth, plastic wastes and has become a dumping ground for the entire community? How often do you see lakes which are being landfilled with non-biodegradable elements just to give away to aggressive urbanisation? The answer would synonymously be yes, quite often we do come across such incidents. But what are the steps that we take? Do we make an effort to clean these water bodies so that a marine ecosystem does not perish altogether? Does the community around make any efforts to save these waterbodies? There are organisations like Environmentalist Foundation of India who are trying their best in nurturing mother Earth and allowing her to be the best she can be.
The Environmentalist Foundation Of India (EFI) began ten years ago with a vision to create a better future for generations to come as Arun Krishnamurthy volunteered to clean a pond in his locality in Chennai. In the years to follow, the organisation gradually spread across Tamil Nadu, Telangana, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Kerala, Gujarat and Kolkata. This group has adopted over 83 water bodies across the country and is getting flooded with newer requests every passing day. Lakes and ponds are not just water holding structures they are habitats to several life forms; this includes snakes-frogs-fish-turtles-crabs-birds and more. We underestimate the significance of a water body, and it is important that we learn to conserve it better.
Constant dumping in these lakes and polluting them with non-biodegradable wastes leads them to be polluted, encroached and exploited. Dumping waste in these lakes only rings an end to a freshwater source in the locality and creating an imbalance in the ecology. The pain of being denied a freshwater body is what has nudged Arun and many other volunteers to take up the noble cause of initiating the change which they want to perceive in the society.
This organisation hopes to create a planet which not only works towards survival but also to thrive. The EFI has voluntarily taken up the responsibility of restoring these lakes so that the marine ecology can also sustain in harmony. When The Logical Indian spoke to Arun Krishnamurthy about how do they reach out to volunteers he said, “We reach out to all stakeholders such as schools-colleges-resident welfare associations in the vicinity and provide them with a platform to volunteer.” “Community-based effort to completely revive the water body is EFI’s primary goal,” he added.
Adopting lakes and cleaning them up needs a solid backup from the localities, the volunteers provide that. This composite measure to revive all water bodies is a battle against the countless opposition, and it also involves sensitising people to keep up the efforts in cleaning the lakes. The biggest incentive in this venture is how nature gifts us a replenished lake after the cleaning process is completed.
Nagapattinam cleaning phases
Out of several other initiatives taken up by EFI, here let’s talk about Nagapattinam district Tamil Nadu. All of Tamil Nadu’s 32 districts have been said to be drought-hit and rainfall has reduced by 62% in 2016 and 2017, which is the lowest rainfall Tamil Nadu has seen in the last 140 years. Reason behind droughts are multifold, beginning from aberration in rainfall to overexploitation of groundwater. Drought-hit areas are witness to some of the highest farmer suicides in the country. Lack of rains leads to failure of crops, low income thereby leading to debts and eventually farmer suicides. One of the worst affected regions by drought, the farmers of this area are famished and hardly have access to clean drinking water. This district from Tamil Nadu was victim to larger issues of climate change as well.
Cleaning up the Thiruvaimur-Thamarai pond was a part of the first action plan that started in May and EFI has successfully created a haven for birds and animals thereby striking a balance within the ecological system. Nagapattinam has seen unregulated urban growth leading to illegal encroachment, and this has taken a toll on its ecological balance. This district has been a home to over three hundred lakes and lowering of ground level water has led to drastic drought conditions in the area. Research and scientific study is an important part of restoration where samples of water are tested in labs to check contaminants and pollution levels. Post research, the water bodies are actively desilted and the silt is often used to make bunds. Later conservation units are built on the corner of the waterbodies for filtering the substrate.
The second phase of Nagapattinam lake restoration will be beneficial for three surrounding villages by bringing an end to the acute water shortage problem. Nagapattinam is in dire need of water for irrigation and consumption. Desiltation, restoration, strengthening and creating bunds are the only ways to save the marine ecosystem and thereby making a move towards creating a sustainable living space. With rains expected shortly, the water body will fill up fast as we have completely restored it. This will help recharge groundwater aquifers and also ensure that more people benefit from it. Apart from Nagapattinam similar efforts have been taken place in Kapra Lake, Nainaar Kulam, Kumaraswamy Lake, Pennalur Pond, Mudichur Pond and River Thambirani at Papanasam to name some.
Advantages and challenges
EFI is here to prove that bringing about change is possible if only the change can be made to happen. Primary aspects that make conservation of freshwater bodies important are multifold
Increased groundwater penetration
Reduced water-borne diseases
Localised temperature regulation
Prevention of calamities such as floods/drought etc.
One of the biggest challenges in sensitising people is to bring an effective change in their mentality not to litter the waterbodies. Cleaning is just a part of a restoration, post-cleaning maintenance is the most challenging part of this initiative, is what Arun Krishnamurthy, said.
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