(June 7, 2022) Ramveer Tanwar is working to save the most precious resource of all – water – in northern India. His work has been crucial for the region that has been overrun by urbanisation and upon which the dangers of climate change are imminent. Ramveer, who has been recognised by the Prime Minister of India, is also the recipient of the Shining World Protection Award in Taiwan. He is the recipient of Rex Karamveer Chakra Award instituted by ICONGO and the United Nations. He tells Global Indian how seeing his favourite childhood spots fall into decay gave him the impetus he needed to arrive at the frontlines of the war against climate change by reviving ponds.
So far, Ramveer’s insights have added value to three books – Guide Book for Pond Rejuvenation by National institute of Hydrology, Roorkee 2022, Harit Khabar by World Comics India, and Talaab Kahe Pukaar Ke by Limca Book of Records holder, Deepak Kumar Pandey. The Confederation of Indian Industry (CII), Ghaziabad Municipal Corporation, East Delhi Municipal Corporation, Indian Oil Corporation Ltd, Airbus India, HCL Foundation, Nagarro, Green Yatra, Say Trees, Honda Cars, Oberoi Hotels, Sleepwell Foundation, and JK Cement are some of the organisations that have collaborated with the pond saviour to bring ponds back to life as part of their CSR activities.
When India received its independence, there were about 24 lakh ponds dating back to ancient times. We have lost about 20 lakhs of them. Making the whole country aware of how ponds are important to fight both floods and droughts is my goal – Ramveer Tanwar, pondman of India
Where it began
By the time Ramveer completed his engineering degree in 2014, the lush, green village he called home had changed beyond recognition. The many ponds by which he recalls playing had become cesspools, choked with garbage and dirt from the community nearby. The grasslands across which he once herded the family cows had been replaced by the glint of the satellite city.
If you happen to be passing through Dadha (Ramveer’s village) on a Sunday morning, you’re likely to find its residents in the midst of their weekly jal chaupal. Here, young and old, men and women are united by a common aim – protecting their beloved waterbodies. It was a tradition put in place by Ramveer, whose work now extends to UP, Haryana, Delhi and Uttarakhand.
Jal Chaupal – Water Meetings initiated by Ramveer Tanwar
Ramveer’s efforts soon earned him the title ‘pond man’, which also led to his appointment as consultant for water and pond conservation at municipal corporations for several districts in UP. Prime Minister, Modi praised him in the 82nd episode of his Mann ki Baat.
Today, Ramveer takes his message to top institutions like IIT-Roorkee, IIT-Kharagpur, IIT-BHU, IIM-Indore, JNU, Amity Noida, IISER Kolkata and National Institute of Agriculture, Hyderabad. Ramveer is also brand ambassador of the Swachh Bharat Mission, Ghaziabad and has been appointed the district coordinator of the Bhu Jal-Sena (Groundwater Force), Noida by Government of Uttar Pradesh.
Campaign by little water warriors
“Ponds are the heritage left behind by our ancestors. We need to carry forward those to our future generations,” remarks the environmentalist, who hails from a family of farmers. As a college student he used to take tuitions for young students in his village. “To build their interest in conservation of water and ponds, I started encouraging them to come up with posters and paste them around the village to educate all,” he says.
A man of out-of-box ideas he decided to take the drive further. By leveraging the power of children in action he attempted to bring a change in mindsets of the village elders through jal chaupals (water meetings).
Ramveer’s team of little warriors went door-to-door campaigning and received smirks initially. However, with persistence, the young brigade was able to change the hearts and mindsets of the elders. They lent a helping hand in not only cleaning the village pond but in the plantation drive around the periphery of the waterbody.
The turning point
When the village community started taking ownership of cleaning the waterbody, news of Ramveer’s initiative spread to other villages and districts, flooding him with invitations from nearby villages to organise jal chaupals there as well.
Villagers in support
The drive became bigger when his efforts came to the notice of IAS NP Singh, former DM of his district – Gautam Buddha Nagar. The officer helped Ramveer get a larger platform to reach people by ideating and promoting a two-minute short film about his drive at all cinema halls of the district.
Bonding for a common cause
Ramveer has been able to create an emotional bond between the villagers and the 40 water bodies that he has revived so far by involving local communities in every step of the cleanliness process. Elders of the villages are given due significance so that they feel like the guardians of the land they inhabit.
When Ramveer begun, he did so with minimal funds. Villagers were receptive to his efforts and contributed with physical labour, also pitching in for tools and equipment. Fishers and farmers stepped in as whistleblowers ensuring that no one litters the water bodies post revival. “When I began, I did not have a roadmap but I had the passion to make a difference,” he remarks.
Selfie with pond
The pond man has always come up with unusual campaigns to involve all. One of the popular campaigns has been the #SelfieWithPond campaign on social media. It created a stir, spreading his reach to other states. While pictures of clean water bodies proved to be an inspiration, the littered ones came to the notice of local authorities prompting them to clean them. Even Indians staying abroad and some foreign nationals had showed interest.
All for the cause
The alumnus of Uttar Pradesh Technical University was involved in water and pond conservation campaigns even while he was working for an MNC – Cyient Limited. He worked there for a couple of years and then quit to focus full time on the cause. “I worked in an early morning shift, starting at 5 am to 1.30 pm, giving me enough scope to manage both the job and the cause,” Ramveer explains. But that became increasingly difficult with excessive demands of involvement by nearby villages and even from those of other states.
Finally, he took the plunge of devoting all his time to the cause as it required not only bringing the community together, revival of water bodies and improving the peripheries with plantation but also dealing with encroachers, in the first place. It was not an easy decision for a boy coming from a family in which no one had studied beyond class 10. Family hopes from him had crashed down at that time. The success of his movement is now another story altogether.
He has found an active supporter in Reena, his wife who helps him in all his initiatives. The father of two and an avid admirer of books and podcasts of Osho, Ramveer draws inspiration from Anupam Mishra, the author, journalist, environmentalist, and water conservationist who works on promoting water conservation, water management and traditional rainwater harvesting techniques. “My aim is to motivate as many youngsters as possible so that they can make a big difference to the environment,” he signs off.