How pollution is changing India’s chemistry is already visible to us. Nearly every lake, river, and stream are polluted in the country and the government has failed to solve water crisis or demonstrate that they have the capability to solve the pollution problem. In this precarious condition, one engineer has come forward to save India’s dying water.
LifeBeyondNumbers spoke to 36-year-old Civil and Environmental Engineer Tarun Sebastian Nanda, the brain behind “Adopt an Island” initiative – a unique citizen-led project to solve India’s water pollution woes once and for all- starting with the cleanup of Hauz Khas lake in Delhi!
Tarun has returned to his roots from the UK, 7 years ago and has put his engineering skills to good use. He is now working with the Delhi Development Authority and leading a citizen initiative to clean up and build wetlands to keep Hauz Khas Lake clean.
“I have focused on developing systems to tackle pollution and providing sustainable infrastructure. Operating as EVOLVE Engineering I have already designed and built wetlands to treat the wastewater generated in two slums in Delhi and at farmhouses in Delhi, Jaipur, and Nagpur.”
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Wetlands are just one of the engineering solutions for waste-water treatment and Tarun uses them a lot in India; as the climate is suitable and they require no chemicals, electricity or machinery to work. Therefore poor maintenance or operation won’t affect their efficiency and they will continue to work no matter what the user does. They can also be installed in existing drains or lakes and thus no additional land is required. Recycled construction material can also be used for this purpose, which reduces costs of the project.
Delhi suffers from both poor infrastructure and a diminishing groundwater supply and increasing population is making it worse. It is only a matter of time until groundwater supplies reach a depth that is too expensive to reach.
Wetlands purify air and water using no machinery, chemicals or electricity and operating costs are negligible compared to a sewage treatment plant. By constructing the wetlands inside existing drains and water bodies there are no additional land requirements and attractive recreational areas as well as natural habitats for wildlife can be created across the city.
To support this noble initiative, a research associate at CUTS Institute for Regulation and Competition, Debayani Panja has also joined the project and both Tarun and Debayani have registered an NGO together so that they can tackle more lakes and rivers across the country.
“The Delhi Development Authority has given us permission, and is helping us in any way they can but the fundraising is our responsibility. There have been some volunteers and local groups that have helped but the majority of the work is being carried out by ourselves.”
Using an innovative approach of floating and constructed wetlands, he wants to remove pollutants from the lake and build infrastructure to purify the incoming water for years to come. The funds have been raised through crowdfunding, personal donations and through the adoption of islands. Most people appreciate the work we are doing but are unwilling to support us financially. Environmental projects seem to be very hard to raise funds for.
With a big enough budget, Tarun will be able to eliminate water pollution entirely in Delhi as well as in the whole country. With a big enough wetland, he may even produce quality drinking water.
“We are aiming to raise about ten lakhs to carry out the construction of the wetlands and are hoping to attract enough people to adopt 1000 islands.”
As part of the project, Tarun will be giving citizens the opportunity to “Adopt an Island”, paying for the materials and building floating wetland islands themselves before launching them into the lake. In this way, he wishes to teach people how to restore their own local water bodies and spread knowledge across the country.