For a long time the 3.5 acre pond in the middle of Rurka village near Ludhiana in Punjab was a cesspool of silt and garbage. The water in the pond was unfit for use by both man and animal.
All that changed - quite dramatically at that - recently when a team of students from the Delhi Public School, Ludhiana, decided to clean up the pond and its water. Today, the water in the pond is clean enough to grown fish in and to water the nearby fields.
The story of Rurka’s pond is among similar initiatives of students that have been chronicled in the exhibition being held at the Children’s Science Congress organised as part of the ongoing 97th Indian Science Congress hosted by the University of Kerala at its Kariavattom campus.
“We did not do this as a school project or anything, it was just a social initiative,” said Tanvi Relhan - a ninth grader at the DPS - of the cleaning drive. First the pond was emptied and two earth movers were pressed into service to remove all the silt. This was then sold to farmers in the area to raise funds for the cleaning and beautification drive. Then came the hardest part - taking away huge amounts of garbage from the pond.
Tanvi narrated to The Hindu how she and her schoomates - 40 of them from grades six to nine - waded into the pond with bamboo poles to clear the garbage. The team never faltered till the water body was cleared of the last bit of garbage, she recollects.
The pond was then divided into four by building small bunds through which pipes were laid. The pipes were filled with a grass variety known as ‘sacharnum spontanum’ which served as a natural purifier for the water. “The pond was recharged during the rains. Water was made to travel in a cycle from one section of the pond to another. By the time it reached the last section, the water was pure enough for pisiculture and for irrigation purposes. We were not able to make it pure enough to be used for drinking,” explained Ms. Relhan.
Later when the students conducted a survey in the villae 92 percent of the people said the local environment had improved considerably now that the pond was clean. “However, we also realised that only 8 per cent of people in the village re-used waer in any manner. It became clear to us that lot of awareness needs to be generated to encourage people to recycle water,” Ms. Relhan added.