Every day after returning from school, young Ramveer Tanwar would quickly eat his lunch, pick up his school books and take a herd of cattle for grazing. While the livestock munched on the grass, Tanwar sat beside the village pond and leisurely finished his homework, soaking in the scenic view.
Soon the childhood activity became a passion, and ponds an integral part of his life. But over time, as Tanwar completed his Bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering in 2014, urbanisation and the growing population had taken over the water bodies of his native village Dadha in Greater Noida.
Once brimming with farmers and farmlands, the planned satellite city in the National Capital Region is now standing tall with its modern skyscrapers, booming real estate and shrinking space for nature.
Losing his “most cherished childhood memory” made Tanwar take a hard look at the larger issue of disappearing inland wetlands including ponds and lakes, and the growing water crisis across India. So, he started a campaign on water conservation in his village, which was already facing a dwindling water table. Flushed with the success of the drive and people’s support and participation, Tanwar, an engineer, became a full-time conservationist in 2016.
“We think of ponds and lakes as places of beauty and repose and picture them as clean waterbodies surrounded with lush greenery, refreshing cool breeze and myriad birds humming beautiful tunes,” says Tanwar, who is currently reviving a pond in Chauganpur village in Gautam Budhha Nagar that houses the twin cities of Noida and Greater Noida. “Sadly, the reality is different. Across the country, wetlands have either been encroached upon for construction or turned into dumping grounds or simply left to fade away with neglect.”
In total, so far, the 26-year-old has resuscitated at least 20 ponds and lakes, a majority of which are in this district.
Awareness is the first step
Take a walk on the shoreline of a pond or lake, and you will realise what Tanwar means about the state of wetlands. Strewn with green and clear plastic bottles of a dozen sizes, polythene bags, a child’s broken plastic helicopter, dismembered toys, Styrofoam glasses, chips wrappers, used condoms, milk packets, torn clothes, diapers, a taut old shoe, and stretched nylon socks – it gets uglier and fetid with each step.
This unsavoury scene reminds one of Pablo Picasso’s anti-war painting Guernica which displays scattered dead bodies and severed limbs. But unlike the corpses, the garbage in these water bodies is not going to decompose – organic material decomposes comparatively faster than wood, which takes three months, a plastic bag which could take over 20 years and a plastic bottle, more than 700 years.
“When we revive a pond or lake, three things dominate our mind – nature, heritage and groundwater. But to achieve…