A small, unkempt water body adjoining a bustling railway station failed to catch the attention of the passers-by as well as local residents. The tiny lake next to Sheoraphuli railway station in West Bengal was officially the property of Government Railway Police (GRP), but over the years it had turned into a garbage dump, thanks to negligence from the authorities and localites alike.
It could have stayed like that until plastic completely choked it up, had it not been for a group of local youths, who decided to dedicate only five hours on a Sunday morning to clean it up. Now, the lake is greeting everyone with its newfound grace, adorned with seasonal blooms of water lily and lotus.
That’s what it all took – a group of barely 11-12 people and five hours of a single day.
How did the lake turn into a dumping zone
Talking to Efforts For Good, Bivas Gupta, one of the volunteers in the cleaning drive, shares, “Even a year ago, the lake was comparatively cleaner. It would be covered with water lily throughout the year. You could even spot fish playing in the clear water. But, once people started throwing plastic, it did not take long for it to turn into a foul-smelling, dirty eyesore in the middle of the town.”
The rushing crowd of commuters, to and from the railway station, would not mind throwing their share of plastic packets and bottles into the lake. In the evenings, the area around the lake became an adda zone for the local youth, who would unabashedly continue dumping plastic, food packets, cigarette stubs etc. into it.
Nobody seemed bothered about the worsening condition of the lake, as they were accustomed to seeing such clogged up water bodies all around.
Taking responsibility in their own hands
“Our repeated appeals to the authorities went unheard. So, we decided to take the responsibility upon ourselves. My friend Tandril gathered some volunteers from neighbouring areas, and we set to work at around 5 AM on a Sunday morning,” Bivas shares.
The group used some fishing nets and also handpicked the plastic waste from the lake, before disposing it of in the municipal garbage vans. Alongside the grown-ups, 7-year-old Rumjan, who calls the railway platform his home, also lent his helping hand tirelessly for four and a half hours.
By 9:30 AM, the lake was spick and span, with its clean water glistening on the surface. To the delight of the volunteers, within a week, water lilies came back to the lake and fish were spotted again.
To prevent future inaction
The group has also submitted a mass appeal to the concerned railway authorities requesting proper management of the lake henceforth. They have also put up posters all around the lake, prohibiting the public from dumping plastic into it.
“We were astonished by the outcome. We would love to continue our work with other water bodies in our area. If young people everywhere can take some time out of their PUBG matches and sharing memes, we can do so much for our environment,” Bivas asserts with an earnest appeal to everyone.
Efforts For Good take
From Bengaluru to Kolkata, every major Indian city which was once dotted with lakes, ponds and pools is now dealing with the problem of dying water bodies due to human negligence. It begins with a single plastic cup or plate, and it ends with choking up the lifelines of a city.
The volunteers at Sheoraphuli has set a blazing example of how a little bit of effort from a few conscious citizens can do wonders in no time. Efforts For Good urges all their readers to devote just a few hours of their free time and clean up a dying water body near them.