CHENNAI: With the new government at the Centre looking to quicken the nod for infrastructure projects, Chennai-based activist Arun Krishnamurthy cautions that development should never be at the cost of environmental damage.
The 26-year-old quit a well paid job at Google and got out of his comfort zone to start Environmentalist Foundation of India (EFI) in 2011 with the focus on wildlife conservation and habitat restoration.
“The true sense of pristine virgin forests needs to be protected. Environment protection should not be about glamour and beautification. Effective and smart management of existing resources by itself will propel India to greater heights,” he said.
Walking the talk on result-oriented environment work, EFI has cleaned 39 lakes so far, the majority of them in South India, with the help of hundreds of volunteers who are mostly school and college students.
Work is currently under way in two other lakes - Arasankazhani in Perumbakkam where 60 per cent of restoration is over, and Keelkatalai where they began work last year but had to put it on hold due to a property dispute.
However, the real challenge is not so much overcoming stumbling blocks and making the effort to restore these water bodies as it is convincing the government to include environmental conservation in its growth agenda and having people understand its importance.
“All our projects need government approval. We only seek permission, not monetary help, from the government. Though there are several progressive authorities within the government whose understanding of environment projects is encouraging, there are also the usual drawbacks of prolonged action and general ‘sarkari’ lethargy. But we have to live with it,” Krishnamurthy said.
The restoration of eight lakes -- Perumbakkam, Sithalapakkam, Narayanapuram and Nanmangalam in Chennai, one lake in Coimbatore and two in Hyderabad -- awaits approval from the Public Works Department. Krishanmurthy, who has received numerous awards for his work, aims at effective conservation with the participation of as many people as possible.
“The government should bring in stringent laws against dumping waste in water bodies and to keep encroachers away from natural habitats. There should be ordinances to clearly demarcate boundaries for fresh water bodies in urban India and encourage compulsory social work for students aged above 14,” the activist reveals his expectations from the Modi government on environmental issues.