Tuesday, January 31, 2017
Inspiration-How Padma Shri awardee Eco Baba revived a river with public support.
Environment activist from Punjab Baba Balbir Singh Seechewal was conferred the Padma Shri this year for infusing life into Kali Bein, a 160-km rivulet where Guru Nanak is believed to have earned enlightenment about 517 years ago.It took the 55-year-old, who is also referred as Eco Baba, 16 years of voluntary service to rejuvenate the rivulet, which was reduced to a “filthy drain.” He also beautified the river banks and also built bathing ghats and brick roads.The rivulet rises from Hoshiarpur district of Punjab before flowing into the confluence of the Sutlej and Beas.That’s hardly an exaggeration. In 2000, when Seechewal took on the mission to clean and reclaim the rivulet, the entire stretch was clogged with silt and hyacinth and was polluted by effluents from industry and residential areas.
There is not a single locality along the 160-km stretch dotted with 72 villages and six towns where he failed to garner support for his mission. He even managed to make the Punjab State Pollution Control Board persuade the industrial units not to dump effluent into the river.Now in his own headquarters at Seechewal, the Eco Baba gets up at 2am for prayer. The physical activity in his centre at Seechewal – where about 150 disciples live – begins at 5am.He has also set up a forest nursery that distributes one lakh saplings every year. The ‘baba’ also runs a school for migrant labourers.
Many administrators now want to follow his model to resuscitate other rivers.