JALANDHAR: Eco warrior Balbir Singh Seechewal, who hogged the global limelight by
reviving the almost dead 160-km-long Kali Bein, a rivulet sacred to
Sikhism, and developing low-cost community-managed micro-sewage
technologies, is now a ray of hope to rejuvenate India's longest river -
Every week, village heads settled along the Ganga
visit this village near Jalandhar town to understand the sewage
technologies and to replicate them in their respective villages.
The visits are part of the central government's ambitious Rs.20,000 crore ($3 billion) Clean Ganga project.
are educating the visiting villagers on how to collect the domestic
sewage for simple treatment in open ponds by natural methods and then
reuse it for irrigating the fields," 55-year-old Sant Seechewal, as he
is better known, told IANS in an interview.
Wearing his trademark
maroon robes, the only Asian winner of TIME Magazine's Hero of
Environment award explained that the cost of setting up the treatment
tanks and supplying the treated water to the fields through a pipeline
is low compared to the use of electrical water pumps that heavily drain
out underground water.
Moreover, he said, the treatment
techniques that have been adopted by more than 150 villages in Punjab,
including 100 located on the Kali Bein, ensures that no polluted water
flows into the surface water channels.
According to him, a village with a population of 14,000 to 15,000 requires a treatment plant on 27 acres of land.
However, for bigger towns and cities this model will not work. They need sewerage treatment plants.
Seechewal said 1,657 villages located along the Ganga from Uttarakhand
to West Bengal have been shortlisted by the Union Water Resources
Ministry for field training.
These villages have been discharging their effluents directly into the Ganga.
So far, representatives of 375 villages from Uttarakhand, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and Jharkhand have visited this village.
He said some villages in Jharkhand adopted this technology last week.
Tripathi, a visiting village head from arsenic-affected Kanpur district
in Uttar Pradesh, told IANS that Seechewal and nearby villages have
seen prosperity by adopting low-cost, community-managed waste water
He said Sant Seechewal and his followers
explained the model adopted to clean the Kali Bein rivulet and setting
up and operating waste water treatment plant.
"Even the farmers
admitted that there is noticeable increase in the crop yield as treated
water boosts crop production," Tripathi added.
heads from Kanpur and Unnao districts were in Seechewal on May 21-22.
They blamed the local leather industry for polluting the Ganga.
cannot clean a river by setting up sewage treatment plants or stopping
the inflow of sewage into it. You have to maintain natural conditions in
the river like ensuring adequate flow. All rivers or rivulets have a
self-cleansing ability," explained Sant Seechewal, whose feat of
cleaning the Kali Bein rivulet, once a drain of domestic and industrial
pollutants, also attracted global attention.
Besides cleaning the
rivulet in just two years by deploying over 3,000 local volunteers in
July 2000, Sant Seechewal has also played an important role in
re-greening its banks by raising medicinal and fruit-bearing orchards.
rivulet's revival has also recharged the local water table as the
handpumps had gone dry for the past four decades and are now yielding
water, he said, while pointing towards the fields.
President A.P.J. Abdul Kalam visited the village twice in 2006 and 2008
to understand and acknowledge Sant Seechewal's technologies.
Water Minister Kapil Mishra visited Seechewal and Sultanpur Lodhi near
here in the last week of May to understand the waste water management
system and to seek help for cleaning the highly-polluted Yamuna river.
(Vishal Gulati can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)