Published: 22nd March 2020
Water warriors: Not just a Facebook page, these volunteers from Kochi are responsible for the city's clean ponds
Noby K Antony, a key volunteer of Anbodu Kochi and the Entekulam Ernakulam project who have cleaned over 300 ponds in Ernakulam district, urges us to understand the importance of conserving water
If you think about floods in India, most of our states were affected last year, one of the worst hit being Kerala. Almost every state pitched in to support the coastal state in the form of relief materials and funds. Kerala too has always been one of those states that steps up in times of crisis, like when they lent Chennai a helping hand during the 2015 floods. After sending the last load of materials to Chennai, the core members of Anbodu Kochi — including former collector MG Rajamanickam (IAS) — sat down and discussed how such a disaster could be avoided in Kochi as well. After brainstorming for a few hours, they came up with a plan and that was the genesis of Entekulam Ernakulam.
Although their name is a dead giveaway, we were curious about their gameplan. "Spearheaded by Rajamanickam, we started off with cleaning 55 ponds in 2016. NSS volunteers from several colleges in the city and other locals from the place participated in the cleaning process," says Noby K Antony, a volunteer of the Anbodu Kochi initiative as well as their Facebook admin. Anbodu Kochi started as a WhatsApp group and later, snowballed into a Facebook page that now has about 66k followers. Explaining the cleaning process, Noby shares, "We handpick all the waste, plastics, weeds and so on, and even do desilting if required. In 2016, the programme was financially supported by several sponsors and in 2017, it was sponsored by Cochin Shipyard." The team has cleaned over 300 ponds in the last four years.
And what happens after they are cleaned? The pond becomes the responsibility of the respective panchayat. "We beautify the ponds too by providing bio-fencing and we reconstruct whenever required. They are made so clean that the water can be used for irrigation and drinking purpose. The Anbodu Kochi team monitors the maintenance of these ponds at random," says the 33-year-old, who works as a non-teaching staff at SMHSS Murickassery. Obviously, we had to ask about the consequences of non-maintenance. He smiles and says, "The panchayats that maintain their ponds will be awarded by the district administration, Ernakulam. This builds a competitive spirit among the panchayats. In the end, our purpose is served. Right?"
This flagship project witnessed the participation of people of all classes, informs Noby. "People worked round the clock, including weekends and public holidays. There were days when we completed the cleaning of 10 ponds in a day," he says proudly. Winding up the conversation, we ask him what motivates the team to continue their good work. He concludes, "Though the initiative comes under the district administration, it is every individual's responsibility to maintain our water bodies because these are sources of water for their wells too. We should be keeping our surroundings clean without blaming the government. That is our motto."