C R Shanmugam, a civil engineer, works as a project consultant for Dhan Foundation, a Madurai-based NGO. He has revived about 20,000 300-1,000-year-old water tanks, which are now managed by people in villages across Tamil Nadu. The tanks recharge groundwater, besides ensuring water for irrigation. "A man with a vision and wisdom" is what people say about him. But, in all humility, Shanmugam believes he is "only a cog in the wheel".
Komal Lochan Jani / Amrinder Kishore
The Indian National Trust for the Welfare of Tribals (INTWOT)
7/C - 7/230, Rohini,
New Delhi 110 085
Tel: 27046583, 27055172
Moulana Iftikhar Hussain Ansari is a politician, a businessman and now the 'Green Maulvi' of Jammu and Kashmir. As minister for housing and urban development, he has been credited with establishing the J&K Lakes and Waterways Development Authority in 1997 to preserve the Dal lake. Hampered by a massive fund crunch, there has only been a marginal change in the lake's condition. But the de-weeding process has been started with some success. The Moulana firmly believes that he can tide over the current problem. Once the glory of the Dal is restored, he plans to start cleaning the Jhelum river.
"It is an ongoing battle. First, in the court, when the case is being heard and then, with the executive for the implementation of the court orders. The litigant and the local people have to act as watch dogs," said Rawat, who filed a Public Interest Iitigation (PIL) for the protection of Naini Lake in 1993. The Supreme Court (SC) gave its final verdict in 1995. Since then, the litigant with public support is on the guard. These efforts are paying rich dividends.
The overflow of the Naini Lake during the monsoon passes through the nallah and into the Ballia ravine. The nallah was in shambles and if it had caved in the lake water would have swept off several townships in the foothills. However, these concerns never received attention either from the authorities or of the people living in the plains. Though such mishaps are not uncommon in the region. The SC order on March 9, 1995 effectively addressed the concerns raised. It directed:
The state government has also released Rs 7 crores for the maintenance of Ballia ravine. The works will be completed by 2003, subsequently an afforestation programme will be launched and vegetative spurs will be developed. Every year during the monsoons, residents of the surrounding areas were asked to move to safer places, but not this year.
Mohit Ray is the co-founder of Vasundhara, a self-funded citizens group, actively involved in the protection of urban and semi-urban water bodies in and around Kolkata. It is actively encouraging and mobilising the local communities to protect 3,000 urban water bodies. All these water bodies are under the jurisdiction of the Kolkata Municipal Corporation. Their major achievement is not only removing the encroachments from the 8,500-sq m of the water body at Jheel Road near Jadavpur railway station in south Kolkata, but also reviving it.It all happened when in March 1999, the concerned residents formed the Jheel Sanrakshan Samiti that generated a huge public support for the pond's protection. Later, the municipal authority also extended its support. Together, they not only brought the pond back to life, 13 affected families were also rehabilitated. For the past years, Vasundhara has been celebrating June 16 as the wetlands day to generate awareness among the people. Impressed by their efforts, the Central Pollution Control Board has entrusted Vasundhara with the task of developing a management plan for protecting the ponds of Kolkata.
JSS has waged a relentless struggle to save the lakes of Udaipur - Pichhola, Swaroop Sagar, Fateh Sagar and Badi - through public interest litigations. Filed in 1997, it seeks urgent judicial intervention to clean up and to check the flow of pollutants into these water bodies, which form the city's lifeline. Their concerted efforts have been able to strengthen the local people's resolve to brave long delays in the judicial process and an apathetic and partisan government to protect their lakes. But their hard work paid off. The city has received funds under the National Lakes Conservation Plan (NLCP) to restore the water bodies. And, the High Court is itself monitoring the executive compliance of its orders on a regular basis. Recently, his group has joined CSE's Urban Wetland campaign to collectively motivate the urban population to understand the manifold uses that these decaying water bodies once served, and to emphasise the urgent need to protect and revive them.
113 Chetak Marg
Udaipur 313 001
Tel: 0294-2523809 / 2524961
The response of the people was encouraging", he said. He has translated Talab in Gurmukhi, so that more people can read it. "I never thought of joining or starting any organisation or group. I want to work with people on my own terms", he says. For past few years, in the months from June to September, he and a few other interested people plant new trees. Recently, he has also obtained approval from Shiromoni Gurduwara Prabandhan Committee to take up tree plantation on vast tracts of land owned by this body.
Jamalpura, Malerkotla 148023
"Once we started the desilting and cleaning up of the tank, even people who had previously ignored the renovation came forward to offer their services - in the form of technical advice, monetary help or voluntary labour", reminisced Balasubramaniam. To achieve the goal, a fund-raising campaign was launched. Pammel women went from door to door seeking contributions. "We accepted whatever sum was given.
One person contributed a rupee, which we accepted gratefully," shared Mahalakshmi Janarthanan, a resident. To attract the attention of the people, the fund raisers used a catchy line, 'Oru addiku munnuru rooba' - which literally means "Rs 300 for one foot (of the temple tank wall)". However, adi in Tamil also means a beating, thus, making many residents laugh at the pun and contribute the requisite amount.
Sri Sankara Vidyalaya, the Exnora Innovators Club, the Rotary Club, Pammal Tanneries Association and a few individuals were the major contributors. About Rs 13 lakhs were raised through this campaign. The ease with which the community mobilised itself to collect funds was the direct result of the change in the mindset of the people, who had experienced the positive impact of implementing rainwater harvesting in their houses. Initially they used to say, 'Namakken vambu?' (why bother?).
But when they realised that the quality of water in their wells had improved drastically, and the money they would spend on buying water resources during summer had declined - their attitudes changed. Balasubramanian rightly explains, "For any community effort to be successful, the change must be visual."
More than half the fund was utilised to strengthen the banks of the tank, by constructing a wall around it. This measure was taken up to protect the tank from degeneration in the future. In September 2001, the works began and within three months the project was successfully completed, despite heavy rains. Seeing the people's enthusiasm, the administration of Kanchipuram district also joined in, by extending its support to the project. The results of the work have surprised the residents as well. Both the quality and quantity of water in the region have improved, due to the restoration of the tank.
No 5A, Plot No 105,
7th Street, Sri Sankara Nagar,
Pammal, Chennai 600 075
Tel: 2484283 / 2484841