Community Participation is Pond Man’s Mantra
We get you the story of Ramveer Tanvar who was recently mentioned in the Prime Minister’s ‘Mann ki Baat’ program for his pond rejuvenation efforts! Hailing from Uttar Pradesh, Ramveer Tanwar is a young environmentalist and an engineer by profession, who has brought forth some interesting ideas on water conservation.As a school student in Greater Noida, he was fascinated by natural ponds and lakes in his immediate surroundings.
While growing up, he realized that ponds are dying and witnessed the increasing water pollution and falling groundwater levels. The traditional water sources were polluted to the extent that it was difficult to distinguish lakes from sewage drains. The remaining water resources were encroached on for building roads and houses.
A sea effort of cleaning ponds
Tanwar started the pond cleanliness campaign in his native village Dadha in Greater Noida. To do this, he engaged and mobilized community members in the village to join the campaign to clean ponds. Increased community participation in decision-making ensured that solid waste was not dumped into any nearby water resources. A pit with wooden mesh was constructed to collect the household wastes from the village. Grass patches, serving as a second layer, ensured that no additional waste material flowed into the clean water bodies. People from the village volunteered to clean the pit, wooden mesh, and grass patches every week. The floor of the ponds is generally covered with a layer of micro-waste material and requires a specific way to clean it. Hence, the fisher folks based in the village were encouraged to pursue aquaculture activities where they cultivated more than 10,000 slime fishes. Slime fish eat minute and other micro waste materials and ensure that the process of cleaning the lakes and ponds is completed. Moreover, these fishes are then sold in the market. The money obtained from the sale of slime fishes becomes an alternate source of income for the fishermen and is further used to invest in aquaculture, thus maintaining ecosystem integrity.
Debate, participate @ Jal Chaupal
Since the beginning of Ramveer Tanwar’s pond restoration campaign, ‘Jal Chaupal’ has become a platform for approaching villages on the issue of pond cleanliness and garbage disposal. Through Jal Chaupal, villagers gather and specifically raise concerns on water conservation, strategies and future plans, etc. in the form of a village panchayat. The extensive community discussion and feedback enhance community participation which ensures the cleanliness of natural water bodies. After Jal Chaupals was successfully established, the government of Uttar Pradesh recognized the efforts of Ramveer and appointed him as the district coordinator of Gautama Budhha Nagar for the ‘Bhujal Sena’ or ‘Groundwater army’ initiative.
Ramveer Tanwar’s efforts on pond rejuvenation have brought over a dozen lakes back to life from the brink of disappearance. He is especially known for his significant contribution to restoring Gautam Buddh Nagar’s (Noida) Kulipara Talab, Aajampur Talab and Greater Noida’s Shaheed Sarovar. His next water conservation project is based in Kanpur where he aims to restore traditional water sources. While encouraging the youth to participate in community-based action, Tanwar suggests focusing on smaller water bodies.
Identifying Water Bodies
In 2021, New Delhi’s Wetland Authority implemented the suggestions made by the National Green Tribunal in 2019 to assign unique identification numbers to the 1,040 water bodies. Delhi has over 1,000 lakes and ponds and 995 have been verified on the map.
A study by the Center for Science and Environment suggests that over the past few decades, increasing population and urbanization have led to a dramatic reduction of natural water bodies. Bengaluru had 262 lakes in the 1960s, but now only 10 remain. Similarly, Ahmedabad had 137 lakes in 2001 and, by 2012, 65 of those were destroyed or encroached for building houses. In Hyderabad, 3,245 hectares of lakes are at the constant risk of disappearing. Further, water shortages have adversely affected the livelihood opportunities of various communities and encroaching lakes have deteriorated the quality of water.
oceans, seas, rivers, lakes, and other water bodies cover 71% of the Earth’s surface. Marine biodiversity consists of various species of animals, be it the world’s biggest animal or the smallest.
The ocean is home to such innumerable species. According to a report presented by the United Nations’ Food and Agricultural Organisation, 40% of the world’s population lives within a 100 km radius of the coast. About 10-12% of people depend on the ocean for their livelihood. Oceans and seas work as a carbon sink, which means they have the ability to absorb excess carbon generated due to anthropogenic uses. They further play a major role in maintaining complex ecosystems.
This action plan will make the Yamuna clean again?
Since the 1990’s numerous unsuccessful attempts have been made by the governments, businesses and civil society to restore the cleanliness of the Yamuna. The Delhi government has recently proposed a six-point action plan to bring the Yamuna back to bathing standards by February 2025, and the renewed focus is on solid waste and sewage treatment.
Recently, images from the Yamuna’s toxic foam went viral. The toxic floating foam in the river indicates the presence of phosphates and surfactants in the untreated sewage from Delhi, Haryana, and Uttar Pradesh. Short-term exposure to this polluted water leads to skin irritation and allergies, whereas long-term exposure leads to neurological issues and hormonal imbalances. The Chief Minister of Delhi announced the proposal while focusing on upgrading the existing facilities at the four major drains. These drainages are located at Najafgarh, Ghazipur, Badshahpur and Supplementary (Wazirabad), whereas new localized drain facilities will also be constructed. The agenda is to increase the sewage treatment capacity of wastewater from 600 million gallons a day to 750-800 million gallons.
The Trajectory Of The Yamuna River
The Yamuna River referred locally as ‘Jamna’ is a major north Indian river originating in the Great Himalayas in Uttarakhand, flowing through Himachal Pradesh, Haryana, Delhi and Uttar Pradesh.
Jamna flows for 1,376 kilometres and merges into the Sangam in Prayagraj (U.P.) and is the longest tributary of the River Ganga. Presently, due to rapid urbanization, the Yamuna River has become one of the most polluted rivers in north India. The most astonishing fact about the Yamuna river is that only 2% of the length flows through Delhi, yet Delhi and its adjoining region contribute a major portion of the total pollution of Yamuna. All of the city’s sewage and toxic industrial liquid waste gets discharged into Delhi’s drainage system which leads to the Yamuna. The liquid waste contains dyes, which include heavy metals like mercury, lead, tin and they prove to be fatal for aquatic creatures. The Yamuna River has immense economic importance as it contributes to irrigation and agricultural activities. Popular as a holy river, it is used by fishermen, washermen and farmers. The river supports a rich aquatic habitat. Industrial wastage and the presence of environmental hazards have proven to be challenging for all stakeholders. More than 50 million people depend on the Yamuna and it accounts for over 70% of Delhi’s water supply.
DHAN and HCLF collaborate on project ‘REVIVAL’
Local communities in Tamil Nadu have used the tank system since the ancient period. Previously, the presence of tanks has helped in regulating the hydrological cycles in cities, but urban expansion has drastically reversed the situation.
The city of Madurai in Tamil Nadu consists of more than 100 tanks and channels, which have largely dried up or are converted into dumping sites. To tackle the problem of diminishing traditional water bodies, DHAN Foundation’s water collective the Centre for Urban Water Resources (CURE) collaborated with the HCL Foundation for its project REVIVAL. In this initiative, the idea is to focus on restoring the tank system, securing water resources and redefining its purposes through collective planning and action. The project aims to restore the 640 acres of Vandiyur Lake. The main objectives of REVIVAL are to protect urban aquatic environments, enhance the living and sanitary conditions of residents and improve livelihood by securing water resources. The project also aims to fulfil the objectives of the Jal Shakti Ministry’s securing and protecting the water commons.
One can ‘fly’ in this River of Meghalaya
The water in river Umngot (Dawki) of Meghalaya is so clean and transparent that it seems like the boat is in the air! In contrast to being home to one of the most polluted rivers like the Yamuna, India is also home to one of the cleanest rivers in the world.
Almost 100 km from Shillong, the Umngot river flows into Bangladesh and is a natural divide between the Khasi and Jaintia Hills of the state. The river also received special appreciation in PM’s Mann ki Baat program. The Ministry of Jal Shakti appreciated the efforts of the local communities in Meghalaya in making this river one of the cleanest in the world. The river is a perfect eco-tourism spot and is believed to be the major reason why people visit Dawki.
Farm Ponds providing a unique solution in Rajasthan
Rajasthan’s Nagaur is a region with acute water scarcity. The rainfall is limited and for years, people have struggled to have an efficient water management technique. In 2009, the Rajasthan government had suggested the construction of ‘Farm ponds’.
Farm ponds are known as ‘Diggiyan’ in local parlance. Since the implementation of this government initiative, Nagaur is home to more than 5000 farm ponds. Farm ponds are not built with non-biodegradable materials such as concrete or cement and the collected water can be used for six to eight months. This is the most efficient solution to conserve water. The water collected in these farm ponds is used in planting the Rabi crops. Lilliya, a model village in Nagaur has a phenomenal water management technique where farm ponds assist in the irrigation of 3,500 hectares of land. The government maintains an online portal to manage the existing records of farm ponds and also to connect more people with this novel initiative.
My Hindon Initiative - Neer Foundation
NEER Foundation, based in Meerut, Uttar Pradesh, was started in 2004 to manage and protect the environment and society. Since then, NEER Foundation has worked in the field of mass awareness, community action, and grassroots level activities.
As per the Uttar Pradesh Water Department, 1215.43 MLD of sewage is released from Saharanpur, Muzaffarnagar, Baghpat, Budhana, Meerut, Noida and Ghaziabad, out of which, only 450 MLD is filtered and treated through city treatment and the remaining sewage is discharged into the Hindon river. To tackle this problem, the NEER Foundation launched a 15 km Hindom River cleanliness drive which involved hundreds of volunteers and officials from the local departments. Volunteers cleared unwanted plants and waste from the river which lead to a clear flow of the river and an overall rejuvenation. This was a 50-day long campaign implemented under the Nirmal Hindon Initiative.
Snow-Fake in the Winter Olympics
Have you ever wondered how is the Winter Olympics held despite the melting of glaciers and global warming? The answer lies in technology and artificial snow. Artificial snow is made with chemicals mixed with water. Pressuring that water through snow cannons, this water is shot up in the air and as it falls, it becomes artificial snow.
Artificial snow, with time, has become an important requirement for hosting the Winter Olympics. This trend was started in 1980 at Lake Placid Winter Games, New York and has continued since then. In the recently organised 2022 Beijing Winter Games, all of the snow on which the athletes competed was 100% artificial. A vast amount of energy and water resource is required to make snow slopes and snow pitches for the games and forty-nine million gallons of water were used to make artificial snow used in the Beijing Olympics. Artificial snow has caused massive water wastage in China when 82% of its glaciers have already melted and 20% of its ice cover has been lost since 1950 according to a Greenpeace report in 2018.