Anshul Gupta, a 2016-batch officer of the Indian Administrative Service (IAS), became commissioner of the Ujjain Municipal Corporation, Madhya Pradesh in late 2021.

One of the first tasks he undertook was to restore a once-dilapidated pond called Yam Talaiya on the outskirts of the temple city Ujjain, located on the banks of the Kshipra River.

This was once a pond of great importance to farmers but suffered from years of negligence, resulting in an excess deposition, which significantly reduced its water-holding capacity.

Making matters worse, invasive weeds began dominating native species and encroachments from nearby farm fields choked the very life of this pond.

Commissioner Anshul Gupta came up with a “scientific, environment-friendly desilting and restoration plan”.

What’s more, not a single rupee of government funds was used in the restoration process.

The volunteers engaged in the pond restoration, wall painting, plantation and even a documentary screening drive to sensitise the public about the water body.

The total cost of restoring the pond, amounting to Rs 60 lakh, was raised through a variety of initiatives, while Rs 10 lakh was raised through CSR funds and donations.

The restoration process began with weed and garbage removal, clearing 0.75 acres of the area. This was followed by desilting to improve the groundwater percolation rate.

New embankments were constructed for a length of 540 metres to define the boundary of the water body and prevent encroachments.

In addition, sedimentary wells for one acre were excavated to capture the silt from the runoff, so that the clean water will pass into the main pond.

Going further, nesting islands were also constructed to facilitate the habitation of flora and fauna of the pond like swans, ducks, fishes, turtles, peacocks, squirrels, etc.

To prevent encroachment and solid waste dumping, protective fencing was installed.

After eight months of effort, the restoration work helped raise the water-holding capacity of the pond by almost a third from its original 67,989,600 litres, according to Commissioner Gupta.