At the heart of the city of Amravati, lies an 18th-century lake. Choked with waste plastic and PoP idols, the Chhatri Lake hadn’t seen a drop of clear water for decades. This was until last year when hundreds of citizen got together to clean the lake.
The fight to free the lake started last year in December when it came to fore to a group of photographers, the decline of the population of migratory birds. Every year, thousands of migratory birds would migrate to the lake in the winter.
After months of cleaning, and removing over 20,000 kilograms of plastic waste and 1200 PoP idols, the lake saw first signs of clean water.
Wildlife conservationist, Prathamesh Tiwari said, “In the last few years, the number of birds reduced almost by half. Earlier, we would sight over 1,000 migratory birds of different species including painted storks, woolly-necked storks, red-napped ibis, Pacific golden plovers and many others.”
During the Great Backyard Bird-Counting programme, it was recorded that not less than 250 red-crested pochards were at the lake.
Tiwari added, “When the numbers started falling drastically, it didn’t take us long to figure out that the toxic plastic was killing the lake.”
In a meeting with a local NGO ‘Let’s Clean Amravati’, Tiwari shared the problem with the founding members of the organization, a dentist couple Dr. Anukool and Dr. Krishna Pateria.
Dr. Anukool said, “Until then, we were cleaning government schools and public spots. We instantly agreed to take up the lake’s cleaning.”
According to some available literatures, the lake was a major source of water for years since its construction in the drought of 1880. The cleaning of the lake started last December when around 20 people reached the choking lake.
“The entire ecosystem of the lake was in danger, fishes were dying. The biggest problem was an age-old plastic waste was present deep down the lake’s bed,” said Dr. Krishna.
The cleaning work was carried out every Sunday. The number of citizens joining the campaign increased every Sunday, while the quantity of waste had started decreasing.
The campaign ended on June 10, whereby 160 people removed over 1,500 PoP idols and 20,000 kilograms of plastic waste, which is equal to over 10 lakh water bottles and a scrap of around Rs 5 lakh.
Dr. Sandeep Deole said, “The Amravati Municipal Corporation provided us JCBs to dig out very old plastic waste which was buried at the bank. After every drive, the corporation would send a truck to take away the collected waste.”
This was the only support that was provided by the city administration.
Mayur Joshi, a young volunteer said, “It is wrong to be dependent on the government for everything.”
A 54-year naik tehsildar, Arvind Gangele who has witnessed the lake over the years said, “Pristine.”
A young dentist, Dr. Nikhil Wankhede said, “Till now, even we would throw garbage in the lake. But being a part of this campaign has completely changed our mind-set. We don’t expect that henceforth, people will stop littering here. But the number of such people will definitely reduce.”
Aarti Pateria said, “Not just a learning lesson, the campaign was a much-needed positive change.” Aarti is battling breast cancer for the last two years. She further said, “Since this was a selfless cause, I would go back home feeling very contended.”
“We have done all the cleaning work manually. We often come up with innovative techniques. Few of us would dive deep in the lake, dig out the trash and pass it on through a human chain,” said a 23-year-old Akshay Janglor, who is a daily wage painter. He worked for three hours every Sunday knowing that he was not going to get paid.
A similar initiative in Akola was praised by Prime Minister Narendra Modi. An Ayurvedic doctor Sonali Ingle said, “We all felt a sense of gratitude. It was like an assurance that we have taken efforts in the right direction.”
Only time can tell if we will get to see the migratory birds migrate to the lake this winter. Now it’s up to the authorities to keep the lake clean.
Information Source: timesofindia
Title Image Source: timesofindia