Published: 16th March 2020
Water Warriors: Here's how UP's Neer Foundation is getting locals together to revive their rivers
Founder of Neer Foundation, Raman Kant Tyagi tells us about his water conservation journey and why he doesn't want any other job than saving the environment
Founded in 2004, Raman Kant Tyagi's (36), Neer Foundation is a non-profit organisation, engaged in the field of water conservation, natural water resources (rivers and ponds) revival, environment preservation, organic farming techniques and policymaking, based in Meerut, Uttar Pradesh. "I was quite young when I had decided that I would dedicate my life towards society and the environment. With a rural background, I had the opportunity to experience the effects of river water and ponds on the lives of rural communities. So, I decided to work towards the conservation of our natural water resources like ponds, johads and rivers and also, promotion of organic ways of farming. My work for the past two decades has taught me innumerable aspects of revival of river streams," says Raman.
Raman began working for the environment in 2000. The dearth of resources in his hometown and across the state made him set up Neer Foundation in 2004 with the help of some of his friends. "They suggested that we create a group or an organisation to deal with the problem of depleting water resources. That's when I set it up," he adds. His family would pressurise him to become a doctor/engineer or to get into a regular job but he always wanted to do something different. "I knew a Kurukshetra University professor, who used to work in this field. I was mainly inspired by him and had decided to get into this line of work. At one of his meetings, he was speaking about reviving ponds. This made me realise that we take, get so many things from nature that we should also give something in return. And there was no looking back from that point," he says. Raman says that he's never felt unhappy doing what he does, so he would continue to contribute to the benefit of the environment.
Neer Foundation is engaged in reviving the area between the two of our main rivers — Ganga and Yamuna — in UP. "We wish to revive the unique identity that is linked to the rivers — the serene atmosphere, comfortable climate around, rich soil — that is gradually degrading with time. We are trying to bring that back," the green warrior explains. They are also working on comparatively smaller non-glacial rivers — Hindon river, Kaali river and reviving them one by one. Their origin is also being revived and their technical study was also done by Raman and his team. Following this, these two rivers were then included in the Namami Gange Programme under the union government.
Neer Foundation's revival work is mainly divided into three segments — awareness, research and finally on ground implementation. Their social initiative Meri Nadi - Meri Pehel started with an aim towards protecting rivers and communities residing on the banks, has been bringing communities together to spread awareness and protect their rights. "Whatever we do includes the local people, we do it together. With the help of our own volunteers we have also sent Swachh jal (clean drinking water and for other use) to several villages where they had problems due to water pollution," he says. Raman has also devised a model needed for reviving a small/big river stream. The team has also put it to good use for reviving regional rivers in UP.
The organisation currently works in Western UP districts namely Meerut, Muzaffarnagar, Saharanpur, Bijnor, Ghaziabad, Bulandshahar, Baghpat, Gautam Buddh Nagar, Hapur, Shamli, Aligarh, Etah, Farukkhbad, Kannauj, Kasganj and Moradabad. But through its various programmes and campaigns, it has spread its influence in neighbouring states as well. With over 5,000 volunteers, they also conduct training programmes in schools that include rainwater harvesting and other water conservation methods. Raman, whose family income comes from farming, had completed his graduation through a correspondence course and has since dedicated his life to conserving environmental resources.
As for their future plans, Raman and his team are working to create awareness among people about the numerous ponds that have been there since the Ramayana and the Mahabharata era. "We are writing about the history of those ponds, what condition they are in now, which will then be published in the form of a book. Ponds like the Gandhari Sarovar, Shakuntala Talab and more have immense historical relevance that our future generations should be made aware of," he concludes.