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Saving our environment, saving us

Man with a plan: Arun Krishnamurthy embarked on a journey to clean lakes in his early 20s.  

His passion for the environment started in childhood at Mudichur, a locality surrounded by waterbodies. The natural environment around his house and its slow degradation motivated him to volunteer for conservation.

Arun Krishnamurthy, founder of Environmentalist Foundation of India (EFI), embarked on a journey to clean up the lakes in his early 20s. A single man’s initiative, launched in 2007, has grown into a movement that has helped to restore waterbodies in 15 States and diversified to address other environmental issues.

Days spent as a student volunteer taught him how a non-governmental organisation works, and his stint at Google, Hyderabad, encouraged him to think out of the box. “EFI was a purely volunteer-driven movement between 2007 and 2011. I initially used to mobilise volunteers for lake clean-ups through personal networks in Chennai, Coimbatore and Hyderabad. Student volunteers propelled the efforts,” says the 34-year-old activist.

Mr. Krishnamurthy was the quintessential face of weekend volunteering for lake and pond clean-ups, a popular concept now in Chennai and many other cities. In 2009, teams used to motivate school students to volunteer through environment orientation programmes in Chennai and Hyderabad.

“We used to do beach clean-ups. We created a platform for people who were ready to participate in and contribute to eco-system conservation,” he said.

It was in 2012 that EFI was registered as a wildlife conservation and habitat restoration group. The same year, he was chosen for the Rolex Award for Enterprise.

“I realised what I was destined for after the prestigious award. We focus on scientific restoration of waterbodies, not just beautification. We look for innovative solutions to sustain efforts,” he said.

This non-profit trust has restored nearly 141 waterbodies across 15 States, and has engaged 14 full-time environmental professionals.

Recalling that 57,000 volunteers were involved in restoration activities in 2018 in nine States, Mr. Krishnamurthy said, “People are our strength. It is the highest number of volunteers since EFI was started. Our focus on restoration changed after the government streamlined NGO participation in 2014 with the water security mission. We can achieve result-oriented restoration only if everyone comes together.”

With the collaboration of the government, civil society, NGOs and industries, it became a success model for lake conservation.

He is now involved in beach clean-ups through EFI’s Samudhra project. “We want to mitigate the localised ocean trash pollution in our coastal city. We are looking at solutions, techniques for deep ocean cleaning, too. In the next three years, I want to enhance this project and invest time in urban afforestation and develop green cover on a 50-acre land parcel at Manali and Sriperumbudur,” said Mr. Krishnamurthy, who runs Krish Infomedia, a company specialising in digital marketing and psephology services.

To make his dream of creating freshwater habitats and trash-free zones on Chennai’s beaches into reality, he also aims to build the next level of leadership to take up more environmental projects in 10 years. “My goal is to restore 50 lakes and ponds every year,” he said.

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Printable version | May 17, 2021 12:37:05 AM |

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