Environment conservation has come a long way in the past 10 years with governments taking more responsibility and environmental groups striving to bring people together. But throughout history, the spirit of change has always begun with one individual’s dream. They have always been the ones to nurture the seed of sustainability, growing and branching out with the help of the masses. Working silently for a better tomorrow, here are 5 notable environmentalists that have had a huge impact on environmental conservation in India.
Hailed with monikers like the Mangrove Crusader and Mangrove Man, Debi Goenka has been part of one of the most influential environment conservation cases of all time.
Petitioning with the Bombay Environment Action Group and Conservation Action Trust, Goenka has been tirelessly working for the protection of mangrove forests along the Maharashtra coastline. His work as a conservationist has spanned over 30 years, with him braving threats, assaults and even an FIR for trespassing. His struggle finally led to a landmark judgement by the Bombay High Court, who made the state government of Maharashtra legally responsible for the protection of these fragile ecosystems from illegal construction and garbage dumping.
Chinu’s journey towards community service began in 2014 when he started an NGO called the Aarna Foundation, which works in the space of hygiene and education for the poor. Noticing the impact his work was creating, he decided to quit his job to focus all his energies on social work and running his NGO, eventually moving on to the beaches of Mumbai.
His clean up drive began when he saw discarded idols of Ganesha at Dadar beach that hadn’t successfully been submerged. Being a devout follower, he put together a team consisting of members from his NGO and his friends to submerge the discarded idols. Their ‘Save the Ganesha’ campaign eventually transformed into ‘Save the beach’, with Chinu and his team using their Sundays to pick up garbage and dumping it in a BMC truck.
Gradually, his initiative gained momentum, with volunteers from various corporates and college students joining in to create a bigger difference.
Having cleared more than 120 tons of garbage, their operation has expanded to multiple locations like Prabhadevi and Worli village, with no sign of stopping till the beaches of Mumbai are restored to their former glory.
Lalita Mukati has been leading a silent revolution to better the lives of farmers in the state of Madhya Pradesh using organic farming techniques.
The 50-year old initially took over the farming activities from her husband, who wanted to study advanced farming techniques, to help them maintain their earnings. She used the standard methods of pesticides and chemical fertilisers, but noticing the poor yield, she decided to try some organic techniques. As the benefits of organic farming began showing in her improved yield, she started making her own organic fertilisers and insecticides using natural ingredients, incorporating them into all her agricultural activities.
On seeing the yield from her farm, others in the village also took to organic farming. Lalita wholeheartedly stepped forward to educate and help other farmers implement organic farming techniques, even offering her own organic products free of cost.
Born and brought up in Bangalore, Kalpana Ramesh, an architect, was vexed by the water shortage she experienced upon moving to Hyderabad, discovering that water had to be purchased from water tankers throughout the day. With the prices fluctuating constantly, she decided to take matters in her own hands and implemented rainwater harvesting to reduce her family’s dependability on tankers.
Noticing the benefits of rain water, like cleaner clothes from the washing machine, she invested in a plant to recycle waste water. As her family’s reliance on water tankers decreased, she decided to implement this method throughout her building. Starting with digging 20 pits in her colony to harvest the water, she spread awareness and managed to revive bore wells for more than 2000 families across the country. Not wanting to lose momentum, she started an initiative called ‘Live the Lakes’ to rejuvenate 62 dried up lakes in Hyderabad with the support of NGOs, students, volunteers, architects and conservationists. She also worked to establish the ‘Plant a Ganesha’ campaign that created idols with clay that when submerged at home, yielded a small plant. Her work has led to major breakthroughs for the city and has helped countless families with their water crisis.
Peera Ram Bishnoi:
Man’s race for development often leaves animals in the dust, quite literally. With cases of roadkill and accidents increasing, Peera Ram Bishnoi broke the cycle of animals perishing by committing himself to their welfare.
Working in a small puncture repair shop near NH 65, his journey began with rescuing a wounded blackbuck that had been hit by a car, and nursing it back to health before sending it back into the wild. He decided then to dedicate his life to helping animals. Supported by a paltry income, he still took animals to the vet, bought medicine and made his home a shelter for the injured creatures. He expanded his efforts with the help of nearby citizens and acquired land with the permission of the government to set up a larger shelter, saving more than 1200 animals in the last 10 years, including many endangered species.
Recognizing his efforts in animal conservation, he was awarded the Earth Heroes Award by the Royal Bank of Scotland Foundation. Peera Ram Bishnoi currently takes care of more than 600 animals that are unable to go back into the wild and plans to keep his project going for a long time.