Their zeal to give back coupled with an undying love for their village got these changemakers to come up with a plan to revamp the dying or dead water bodies in their hometowns.
These zealous heroes, who have quit the corporate rat races to give back to their hometowns, have proven that ‘impossible’ is just a word when it comes to pushing for a dream. Through their efforts, they are revamping lakes, bringing clean drinking water to hundreds and ensuring people live better lives in India’s remote areas.
1. Nimal Raghavan
When Nimal Raghavan heard of the devastating effects of 2018’s cyclonic storm Gaja on his village Nadiyam, in Tamil Nadu, he couldn’t help but quit his lucrative job in Dubai and return home.
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The cyclone destroyed farming lands, displacing the farmers who were being forced to migrate. The village was in an utter state of chaos. Nimal decided to start with the Peravurani lake which had the capacity to irrigate more than 6,000 acres of farmland. Following this, he planted 25,000 saplings across the Kaveri delta region, organised a campaign to help those affected by the cyclone, and undertook mangrove forest plantation and rainwater harvesting.
Together, the team restored a total of 118 water bodies across Tamil Nadu.
2. Asha S
The Karnataka resident’s record of heroism is celebrated across the state, especially in the Kolar district. Through her NGO Arohana, she has helped 1,350 households divert wastewater to agricultural fields, rejuvenated two lakes, and enabled rainwater harvesting in three government schools.
“It is everyone’s duty to protect water and act responsibly. We need to educate people on the importance and scarcity of water. We need to act now to save our future generation,” she notes.
3. Datta Patil
The village of Halgara in Latur, Maharashtra, was known for two things. The iconic temples that devotees from all across India flock to and a severe water scarcity problem. For Datta Patil, a US-based engineer who called the town ‘home’, the latter held a personal significance. As he delved deeper into the problem, he figured the low groundwater levels were to blame.
Datta invested Rs 22 lakh to get a 20 km canal desilted and build 20 recharge wells and 26 check dams. Today, the village has an incredible water storage of 200 crore litres.
4. Ghulam Nabi Deva
The month of May sees villagers from six villages in Kulgam district come to Panzath Nag — the largest spring in South Kashmir — to begin cleaning activities. The cavernous water body is freed of trash, weeds, and silt to ensure the free flow of water throughout the year. This is a vital activity as the spring provides drinking water to about 25 villages.
“I am 82 years old, and never in my life have I missed this festival. Although I can’t go into the water and clean now because of my deteriorating health, I visit and try to keep the spirit of villagers alive,” Ghulam Nabi Deva was quoted as saying in an interview to the New Frame.
5. Manikandan R
The environmental activist, social worker and founder of the NGO, Kovai Kulangal Padhukappu Amaippu (KKPA), meaning Coimbatore Ponds Protection Organisation, has been on a mission to revive the water bodies across Coimbatore, Tamil Nadu for over 20 years.
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Starting from their first project — the reclamation of the 264-acre Perur Lake in 2017 — the group has removed around 150 tonnes of plastics from different water bodies.
Among the many lakes he has revamped, there are Vellalore Rajavaiykal, Kuniyamuthur Canal and Kattampatty. These were desilted, levelled and cleaned and, as Manikandan points out, filled with water after almost 15 years.
Edited by Padmashree Pande