Scale-up citizens-led efforts to preserve environment

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Updated: August 1, 2019 7:38:39 AM

What might not be as immediately visible are efforts at conservation and rehabilitation—mostly, because the most successful of these have resulted from protracted, concerted local efforts led by concerned citizens.

Evidently, if efforts by private individuals can bear such fruit, both the technology and the will to preserve, even improve the natural environment exist.

With drastic climate change already threatening the quotidian lives of millions of people, evidenced, most recently, in the long-delayed and disappointing monsoon and the extreme heat stress being experienced globally, the effects of environment degradation are for everyone for to see. However, what might not be as immediately visible are efforts at conservation and rehabilitation—mostly, because the most successful of these have resulted from protracted, concerted local efforts led by concerned citizens. Take, for instance, Jadav ‘Molai’ Payeng, who single-handedly raised a forest that spreads over 1,360 acres in Majauli Island in Assam by planting a sapling every single day for 35 years, reviving an island that scientists had declared near death. Payeng, who began this project when he was all of 16 years old and continues it till date—his aim is to create another 5,000 acres of forest cover—was awarded the Padma Shri in 2015.

Payeng’s is not an isolated case; while they may not be recipients of civilian honours, others, too, have taken up the mantle in doing their bit to protect the environment. In Bengaluru in 2017, Anand Malligavad, a mechanical engineer by training, rejuvenated the 36-acre Kyalasanahalli Lake in a mere 45 days with the help of local citizens and CSR funds from Sansera Foundation, which the techie was then heading. Anand went door-to-door, covering almost 400 households, to spread awareness about the need to restore the lakes the city was famed for before people started showing up to help with the project. Together, they removed 5 lakh cubic metres of mud from the lake, diverted two canals of the storm-water drain away from the lake so that the September rains could revive it, and created two Japanese Miyawaki forests of almost 25,000 square feet on the lake. Further, 186 borewells were created and recharged around the lake to cater to the needs of farmers who constitute the majority population of the area, thereby dissuading them from using the lake water directly for irrigation purposes. Malligavad has since revived the Vabasandra and Konasandra lakes, and created plans to revive Gavi and Nanjapura lakes—all part of his goal to restore 45 lakes to their former glory by 2025. Similar success was noticed in the clean-up of Mumbai’s Juhu beach, driven by citizens’ collective action last year.

Evidently, if efforts by private individuals can bear such fruit, both the technology and the will to preserve, even improve the natural environment exist. What remains is for such localised efforts to be scaled-up, and involve both private organisations, through their CSR engagement, and the state, through greater citizen engagement in projects pertaining to common and public goods

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