World Earth Day 2019: Meet the environmentalist behind the #SelfieWithPond campaignhttps://indianexpress.com/article/lifestyle/life-style/world-earth-day-2019-ramveer-tanwar-environmentalist-selfiewithpond-campaign-5687648/

World Earth Day 2019: Meet the environmentalist behind the #SelfieWithPond campaign

From Gautam Buddh Nagar's Kulipara pond and Ajampur pond to Greater Noida's Shahid Sarovar, the initiative has restored close to 10 ponds since its launch four years ago. It's next move is to cover areas in Kanpur.

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Before and after photos of restoration of a pond in Suthiyana village, Greater Noida. (Designed by Gargi Singh)

What started as a jal chapaul or people’s gathering to raise awareness on water conservation in Gautam Buddh Nagar’s Dadha Village in 2014, soon turned out to be a larger initiative for conservation of waterbodies. The brainchild of Ramveer Tanwar, a mechanical engineer-turned-environmentalist, the aim is to engage more people in the restoration of ponds.

The idea to restore ponds came from conservation practices of ancient times that focused on small waterbodies. “They are known to keep the moisture of the land or control the level of ground water which helps to control rising temperatures of the earth. Conventional water conservation structures like ponds or lakes do so without any special expenditure,” says Tanwar.

“It is so saddening to see that these days, ponds are treated as non-essential structures and dumped with garbage while a few others are encroached by powerful people. According to one figure, there were about 24 lakh ponds during India’s independence. Rainwater was collected in these ponds, which was very important to maintain the ground water level. As per the revenue records of the British, in the Madras Presidency alone, fifty thousand ponds were there while the Mysore state showed about forty thousand ponds. Cut to the last figures of ponds counted in 2000-01, Noida city, unfortunately was left without any well-functioning pond due to so called ‘development’,” he adds.

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Ramveer Tanwar has been restoring ponds since 2014.

From Gautam Buddh Nagar’s Kulipara pond and Ajampur pond to Greater Noida’s Shahid Sarovar, the initiative has until now restored close to 10 ponds. It’s next move is to cover areas in Kanpur.

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Using an ecoDigester or natural fiteration process, a pond which has become a dumping ground is first cleared of all the garbage with the help of locals, NGOs and volunteers to make sure that the plastics or non-renewables do not reach the shallows. The plastics are then either disposed to designated dumpyards or sold off to scrap dealers. Then, saplings are planted around the pond. A restored pond also helps in saving the biodiversity of the place.

Introducing new voices

To engage more youth, Tanwar, who has taken a three-month training on ground water conservation under Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change’s Central Pollution Control Board, started the #SelfieWithPond campaign on November 5, 2018.

“Most environmentalists have grown old working on gathering more voices and striving to fight. I felt there is a need to get the social media-savvy generation involved and particularly those with a bent of mind in such conservation,” says Tanwar.

“The idea is to build a resource of waterbodies and help the government institutions too,” he adds, pointing out that he contacts each person who uploads a selfie with the hashtag and connects with them for collaborations, and idea exchange.

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To engage more youth towards the initiative, Ramveer Tanwar started #SelfieWithPond campaign in November 2018.

Within one week of the campaign in 2018, he started receiving more than 500 selfies from almost 21 different states including Haryana, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Jharkhand, Delhi, Rajasthan and more recently, from countries like Australia and Mexico.

Stressing on investing the power of the youth, he urges everyone to consciously think about small waterbodies on this Earth Day. “Small waterbodies are not simple holes or a dumping ground. We have ruined these beautiful and ecologically sensitive structures because of our callousness, thinking that these resources are infinite. However, the reality is very different, like we see now,” he says.