A former cop was getting concerned about the shrinking water table and soaring mercury in his lush green town Betul in Madhya Pradesh around two and a half years ago. He decided to engage in environmental conservation and now his group has planted around 20,000 saplings.
Tarun Kumar Vaidya, the founder of the volunteer organisation ‘Green Tigers’, is no stranger in Betul, around 180 km from the State capital Bhopal. The lush green tribal region has lost sizable greenery to development over the last few years and accordingly water table depleted and mercury surged.
“In the winter of 2019, when I asked my four-year-old son to study and he insisted that I switched on the AC for an hour then only he will study,” said Vaidya, adding he just wondered there would be hundreds of parents who will be doing the same unknowingly harming the environment.
Besides around the same time, he noticed that his local football-playing friends saying that they couldn’t sleep properly due to the sultry night. This noticeable change in the weather pattern made Vaidya, who was a policeman from 1997 to 2007, do something and formed the NGO, Green Tigers.
Like-minded professionals from medical, engineering, education, business and others joined in and the NGO has planted around 20,000 saplings till now and wishes to plant three times the saplings than Betul’s population which was around 1.53 lakh as per the 2011 census.
The group diverted water accumulated at roadside pits to soak pits to plant saplings and also clear roads. The soak pits are covered with nets and stones to prevent accidents and prevent the garbage from entering the inner soil levels. “We have made 53 such structure in the city,” said Vaidya, who now works as a private school teacher.
Schools, colleges, crematoriums, residential colonies and other commercial units invite them for plantation on their campuses.
The volunteers also get individuals and organisations to install roof water harvesting systems and the result is visible as the ground water table which shrunk to 300 to 500 feet in the city has returned to around 250 feet. The group even diverts waste RO water from households for washing purposes.
“We had in the past cleaned banks of river Tapti up to 5 km and brought back polythene waste of around 1,500 quintals to the city and handed it over to the municipal corporation for safe disposal, said Vaidya, adding a couple of years ago they had distributed one lakh patrali and two lakh donas (platters and bowls made of leaves) on religious functions to deter plastic and thermocol items.
“For the purpose, we have employed around 17 tribal families in Bori and Bhagwar villages, offering them livelihood option,” said the volunteer activist who believes that environmental conservation is not a daylong exercise instead it should be an annual affair that is part of life. “We are losing thousands of trees for connecting roads and railway lines so we need to plant trees regularly without fail,” said the Betul native.
“The municipal corporation requires spending Rs 2-3 crore for water supply through tankers in the city and it will be a disaster if we don’t wake up,” cautioned the dedicated activist.