Ramveer Tanwar was in his final year of acquiring a Bachelor of Technology (B.Tech) when he realized that the lakes and ponds around him were disappearing. The water bodies he and his friends grew up playing around were mostly converted to dumping areas and were no longer the same as they used to be. This realization made him take up the task of reviving dead lakes in and around his village.
Ramveer Tanwar, a Bachelor of Technology (B.Tech) student noticed the lakes and ponds being turned to dumping areas. He started educating people why they should conserve water and would hold a meeting each Sunday with the villagers. These meetings were named “Jal Chaupals.”
In the year 2013, Ramveer was taking tuitions of the children of Gautam Budhha Nagar of Uttar Pradesh, India when he noticed that people were unaware of the fast-depleting water levels in the area as well as the amount of water being wasted by them every day. To teach the villagers of the approaching danger of an absolute water scarcity in the future, he taught his students to talk about water conservation to their parents. The children did try to convince their parents, but this didn’t make much difference, and the villagers refused to believe that there could be such a thing as lack of water.
Next, Ramveer decided to take matters in his own hands. He would go from house to house to make the villagers understand the issue of the depleting water resources and later urged the students to gather their parents in a common place on Sundays where he would discuss with them how water can be conserved. The response to these meetings was largely positive and soon he would get calls from the nearby villages to hold such meetings in their villages too. His initiative was recognized by the district magistrate, and the meetings were officially named “Jal Chaupals.” He also organized rallies to create awareness among the people.
Ramveer’s intention to rejuvenate dying lakes and ponds were initially dismissed. But once he, along with the villagers, restored a pond in his native village in 2015, people took note of him and started reaching out to him to restore lakes and ponds in other villages.
Ramveer noticed that because the lakes and ponds were used as dumping grounds, the groundwater wasn’t getting recharged to the extent it should, and so he took upon the task of rejuvenating the dying ponds. He, however, faced opposition as there were people who would not allow him to implement his plans as they wanted the ponds to remain dumping grounds so that later they could encroach on them.
Bent but not broken, he started the rejuvenating process of a pond in his native Dabra Village in the year 2015. He gathered a number of volunteers, his students, and their parents and started removing the garbage from the pond. They cleaned the pond entirely and planted saplings around it. Soon, the pond was restored to its former glory. The district administration was invited to witness this miraculous turnaround. After its restoration, people from other villages and districts started to reach out to Ramveer to help them restore the lakes and ponds in their villages too. Since then, he, with the help of NGOs, volunteers, and well-wishers, have been able to restore about a dozen water bodies through 2018.
His initiative has resulted in restoring about a dozen water bodies. The process is to clean the lakes and ponds, prevent further dumping of garbage into the ponds, setting up a double filtration system around the ponds, and rearing fish that consume finer garbage particles.
To restore a pond, Ramveer and his team would first collect donations from the villagers, then they would clean the ponds with the help of everyone who would volunteer. Once the ponds are cleaned, and in order to not allow further dumping of garbage in the ponds, a separate pit would be dug out to collect garbage. To further filter out any additional garbage that might find its way into the ponds, the water flowing into the ponds needed to pass through a filter of wooden planks and a patch of grasses, thus creating a double-filtration system. The planks would catch bigger items, while the grasses stop the smaller substances. The pits and patches are cleaned once in a week.
Adding to these and to eliminate finer particles of waste, the ponds are then used to rear fish like katla which can consume the waste and in turn can be sold to markets. The proceeds from the sale of the fish reared in these lakes directly benefit the fish farmers, and a part of it is used to maintain the cleanliness of the ponds.
To continue his pursuit of rejuvenating the lakes and ponds, he had to change several jobs. Moved by his efforts, the government of Uttar Pradesh set up the “Bhujal Sena” (Groundwater Army) in each district of the state. Ramveer is the coordinator of his district.
Ramveer’s intent of reviving lakes in and around Greater Noida, which is on the brink of facing a severe water crisis according to the experts, has also forced him to change several jobs so that he could devote time to the cause. He goes to work at 5 a.m. and returns at 2 p.m. six days a week and spends the rest of his time creating awareness and cleaning lakes and ponds.
The success of “Jal Chaupals” and his initiative has prompted the Uttar Pradesh Government to set up a “Bhujal Sena” (Groundwater Army) in each district of the state. The Bhujal Senas are groups of people who focus on water conservation in their respective areas. Ramveer is presently the coordinator of the Bhujal Sena of his district. But as the government has zero funds for the awareness programs, many times he has had to spend money from his own pocket to reach out to people to make them aware of the importance of conserving water.
According to reports, India is facing one of the worst water crises in its history. The level of water in the area where Ramveer is active is depleting at a rate of 1.5 meters per year. It is estimated that by 2030, half of the Indians will not have access to drinking water.
According to a recent report of the Indian Central Ground Water Board (CGWB), the water level of Noida and Greater Noida is depleting at an alarming rate of 1.5 meters every year, and without efforts to conserve water, the rate might reach to two meters annually very soon. According to Niti Aayog’s Composite Water Management Index (CWMI) report, India is facing one of the worst water crises in its history, and it is speculated that by the year 2030, half of the country’s population might not have access to drinking water.
Having started in just one village, the movement initiated by Ramveer has now spread over 50 villages and is changing the face of the region slowly but surely. Though it is very unlikely to become a “David vs. Goliath” story to avert the upcoming crises, Ramveer has surely made a difference.