On a mission to revive India’s wetlands

Popularly known as the Pondman, this Noida resident is reviving the country’s water reservoirs and raising awareness in order to pave the way for a sustainable future

author_img Anjani Chadha Published :  05th July 2022 05:20 PM   |   Published :   |  05th July 2022 05:20 PM
A lake revived by Ramveer Tanwar

A lake revived by Ramveer Tanwar and his team

There was a time when the wetland in Greater Noida’s Chauganpur Village would be abuzz with activity; those residing in its vicinity were often spotted there for a swim or to perform puja. As it gradually started drying up, the locals began using the area as a dumping ground. It was only after the sustained efforts of Greater Noida-resident Ramveer Tanwar in 2020 that the spot has now been restored to its original glory. 

“Locals can be seen taking a stroll around the area now,” mentions the 30-year-old who is referred to as the Pondman and has revived more than 40 wetlands across the country till date. An engineer by education, Tanwar—he has also been praised by Prime Minister Narendra Modi for his efforts towards environmental protection—emphasises the importance of raising awareness along with revival. In this interview, the environmentalist sheds light on the significance of these water bodies and his journey of reviving wetlands in Delhi-NCR.

Excerpts…

1. What are a few problems that the country is facing when it comes to wetlands?

Due to increasing urbanisation, the space for water bodies is decreasing. If you see the land and water ratio, you will realise, while on one hand the land area has increased, the area for water is very less. In cities, especially, water bodies have been destroyed to create buildings such as colleges and police stations. If not that, they have been turned into dump yards and act as local landfills where people can throw their garbage. Noticeably, you will see the most water crisis in such places where a certain local water body has been destroyed to create buildings.

2. What motivated you to start working for wetland restoration?

I come from a family of farmers. I am the first generation that studied after class 10. While growing up, I had a lot of responsibilities. I would take the cows and buffaloes for grazing. I have, therefore, spent a lot of time playing around ponds and lakes. As I grew up, I realised the ponds that are an integral part of my childhood have all dried up, and all those places that were once filled with water are now dumping grounds. That also acted as an inspiration to venture into this direction.

3. Can you give us an insight into the first leg of your project?

I had initially started working on awareness campaigns. Working around the restoration of wetlands began later. It was in the last year of my college that I created a campaign with a few students who I used to give tuition to. We had planned to make aware and sensitise the people who waste water. We named our initiative ‘Jal Chaupal’. During the process of working on this campaign, I realised that the state of natural resources is really bad in this country. We worked on information dissemination and awareness building for about two years and eventually, the team expanded. A lot of people joined us through social media. We started organising clean-up drives around various water bodies. This way, we also got support from non-governmental organisations that further catapulted the entire idea of wetland restoration.

4. Can you explain the importance of wetlands?

Water bodies have several direct and indirect benefits for our environment. The biggest benefit of wetlands is that they help with groundwater recharge. A number of reports suggest that, within the next few years, the groundwater table will reduce further. The best way to recharge groundwater is through these wetlands such as lakes and ponds, and if these dry up then there is no option left to fix that further. Secondly, these wetlands are also habitats for several flora and fauna species and are the breeding grounds for many migratory birds. Destruction of wetlands also affects them. And obviously, if a water body around such places is dirty and becomes a dumping ground, it will affect the health of the people residing in that area. 

5. What is the process of wetland restoration?

It usually depends on the problem and differs accordingly. If I talk on a general level, we start with cleaning the place. We remove all the garbage and segregate it. Then, often we see the place would have various unwanted aquatic weeds. We remove them. Post that we distil the water body to ensure its scope to retain water increases. Then, we do some plantations around the water body. If there is any polluted water that is being directed or the water body, we figure out a way to change its direction.

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