Quitting a promising career at Google to follow a dream of rejuvenating the environment around him, Indian conservationist Arun Krishnamurthy has inspired communities to restore their polluted urban lakes.
India’s booming economy is putting pressure on its natural resources. Arun Krishnamurthy is doing what he can to combat that. His Environmentalist Foundation of India (EFI) and its thousands of volunteers have cleaned up 39 polluted lakes in four cities around Chennai and Hyderabad.
Lake Kilkattalai, which feeds the Pallikaranai wetland, is home to several species of birds and pond turtles. It is being choked. If it continues this way, 20 years down the line, this lake could become a forgotten story. I am determined not to let that happen.
The depletion of lakes is affecting scarce water supplies in urban areas, and garbage-dumping and dangerous effluent has turned them into potential health hazards. Krishnamurthy won a Rolex Award for his project to restore Lake Kilkattalai, a stretch of polluted water emblematic of the challenges faced by environmentalists.
As his non-governmental organization has grown and spread to other cities – it operates also in Delhi, Trivandrum, Lucknow, Ahmedabad, Bangalore, Coimbatore, Pondicherry and Kolkata – so has the list of activities carried out by its volunteers, often recruited through school programmes. Their phased lake clean-ups now include waste management, reintroducing sparrows, planting native species, composting, school biodiversity parks, animal care, youth camps and promoting mass awareness through the media.
To cover project costs, Krishnamurthy runs a communications company that advises enterprises on how to invest in social and environmental campaigns to improve their public image. His vision of a clean and sustainable modern India continues to gain traction; in July 2016, the government gave EFI permission to rejuvenate 19 more lakes.
Lakes already cleansed by Krishnamurthy and EFI
Tonnes of garbage EFI’s band of cleaners took from Kapra Lake in Hyderabad, southern India