Meet Balbir Singh Seechewal, one of the most renowned environmentalists from Punjab who is also known as Eco Baba. In the 2000, Balbir Singh decided that something had to be done about the domestic and industrial waste that was killing the Kali Bein river – 160 km long tributary of Beas in Doaba region of Punjab. The river, which is considered sacred by many in the state, had reduced to nothing but a drain because of all the waste that was being discarded in it. Some portions of the river had even dried up, resulting in immense water problems in the neighbouring farms.
Balbir Singh Seechewal gathered an army of volunteers and started work.
They began by teaching local people the importance of cleaning the river, enlisting more volunteers, and raising funds with the help of contributions by the residents of more than 24 villages to purchase equipment required for cleaning.
Together, they cleared the hyacinth and silt from the entire river bed.
Not only this, the team also worked on the beautification of the river bank with trees, bathing ghats, and roads.
Eco Baba also started a public awareness campaign, urging villagers to dispose sewage somewhere else and not in the river. With a clean riverbed, natural springs were restored and the river started to fill up once again.
“We have proved that it is possible to restore our rivers to a pristine condition if we all come together. It is time to do that on a bigger scale,” he had told Time magazine.
Following this, Balbir Singh developed an underground sewerage system model with the help of the Punjab government. It is a low cost model that collects sewage water from ponds and treats it in a natural way so it can be used for agriculture and irrigation purposes.
His work throughout the years has been praised by many in the country and abroad. Other than working towards the conservation of environment, Balbir Singh has also established schools and colleges at different places. In February this year, he came up with a solution to treat solid waste with a machine developed in the Sant Avtar Singh Yadgari Technical Research Centre under his guidance. The machine can help separate heavy particles like polythene, glass, and iron from the garbage. It can be cheaply manufactured and is being tested for further improvements.