After A Severe Drought In 2003, ‘Siruthuli’ Is Rejuvenating Water Resources In Coimbatore Ever Since

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While extensive water pollution and misuse is becoming a roadblock to freshwater availability in major cities, Siruthuli, a non-profit organisation in Coimbatore has been pioneering modern-day water conservation for the past fifteen years. Siruthuli (in Tamil – “a tiny drop of water”) has been working tirelessly to successfully restore the freshwater levels of Coimbatore to its former abundance and conserve the River Noyyal.

The story behind Siruthuli

Since pre-historic times, Coimbatore had been the seat of several important civilizations, thanks to its pleasant maritime climate, abundant rainfall and most significantly, the mighty river Noyyal. Fed by descending rainwater from the Western Ghats, Noyyal was once the lifeline of Coimbatore, nurturing over 20,000 acres of agricultural lands that flourished on her banks. In addition, Coimbatore boasted of an intricately connected network of water bodies including streams, lakes, and ponds as well as underground aquifers.

However, due to rapid urbanisation and industrial growth, Coimbatore began to lose her water resources. In the 1980s, the city was declared by UNDP as “drought-prone, with the fastest depletion of groundwater level in the whole world.” Simultaneously, rampant encroachment and unplanned sewage contamination have reduced River Noyyal to a narrow drain. Out of the 34 streams that originated from the Noyyal, only 3 are thriving as near-arid seasonal streaks of water.

Restoration of river Noyyal

After a devastating monsoon failure in 2003, a few socially conscious organisations of Coimbatore decided to collaborate and take some action. Thus, Siruthuli was born in 2003 – with a vision to recover the city from its severe water crisis.

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Restoration of River Noyyal

The stepping stone: Krishnampathy lake

The first project undertaken by Siruthuli was the 125 acres wide Krishnampathy Lake, of which over 50 acres had succumbed to illegal encroachment. The volunteers de-silting the remaining 75 acres. Soon after, the dried up reservoir and interconnected borewells filled up to the brim after only two days of rainfall. The local farmers, who initially discouraged Siruthuli’s efforts as futile were astonished beyond belief.

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Sprouting community awareness about water conservation

Smt. Vanitha Mohan, the Managing Trustee of Siruthuli, recalls, “The citizens were overjoyed because they have never seen so much water in Coimbatore. There was no concept of rainwater harvesting among the people. They were amazed to see such a huge amount of water in a single water body with their own eyes. They were voluntarily offering to participate in this project.”

It did not take long for Siruthuli to become a household name in Coimbatore, synonymous with water conservation. They wished to make the movement more inclusive with more citizen volunteers – irrespective of their age, gender or socio-economic background.

Smt. Mohan believes that large-scale citizen integration was possible because water scarcity affects the rich and the poor alike.

Schools, colleges, committees, residential associations, farmers’ unions were approached with the appeal to join hands in saving their city. In 2005, Siruthuli organized the Noyyal Yatra awareness walk for the first time, which witnessed more than one lakh participants. It is aimed at making people aware of the past glory of river Noyyal and urging them to work together in conserving this heritage of Coimbatore. Apart from this, Siruthuli also arranges regular nature camps, training sessions for children, public campaigns, etc.

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Plantation by Siruthuli in Anna University

Today, Siruthuli’s activities are not restricted to water conservation (Water Watch) only; they have accomplished a lot in Afforestation (Green Guard), Waste Management (Waste Wise) and creating environmental awareness (Spread The Word). Their efforts were recognised by the Government Of India and several international organisations.

At present, Siruthuli has a core workforce of twelve people managing all their activities along with an apex body of dedicated volunteers and periodic interns. “We have the Water Bodies Restoration Committee, the Noyyal Restoration Committee, the Forest Management section (which performs afforestation in fallow lands). The Citizen Coordination Committee engages with the citizens, students and inspires more people to join Siruthuli’s initiative,” said Smt. Mohan.

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Nandangarai Dam is one such project by Siruthuli

The Noyyal Times is the quarterly magazine of Siruthuli that publishes details of their on-going projects. It also shares examples of methodical environmental management around the globe.

“We faced a lot of challenges”

The path for Siruthuli’s journey was filled with hurdles. Unchecked encroachment of water bodies and wetlands for construction purposes has been a major challenge. However, with diligent efforts and dedication, the organisation has successfully saved many water bodies, with a proper relocation of the local residents.

Another major challenge that Siruthuli is still facing is contamination of freshwater with sewage. Due to the absence of advanced underground drainage system (UGD), most of the wastewater gets mixed with the fresh water sources polluting the rivers, canals, lakes, and ponds. “We are trying our best to convince the government to set up sewage treatment plants. The sewage needs to be treated first before being let out into the water bodies,” says Smt. Mohan.

Siruthuli: the future plans

Siruthuli has been built drop by drop over fifteen long years; with passion, dedication, commitment, and responsibility. Today, it resonates with the emotions of Coimbatore. The organisers envision three primary tasks in front of them for the next ten years:

  1.    Complete restoration of River Noyyal
  2.    Increasing the catchment areas of all water bodies and revival of the river basins
  3.    Creating a green cover for the city

Siruthuli inspires the citizens of other Indian cities to protect the environment around them. It is high time the nation takes note of their achievements and incorporates similar initiatives everywhere.

If you wish to know more about them, reach out to their website: https://siruthuli.com/

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‘Happy Fridge’: The Key To Bridge Food Wastage And Hunger Problem In India

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Rahul Khera and Gautam Jindal, volunteers (aka hunger heroes) at Feeding India, were among the many Delhi NCR residents accustomed to seeing hungry children pick up half-eaten burgers or stale sandwiches from the dustbin and savour those with the brightest smiles. Like many others, they also had the will to promote equitable food distribution but was perplexed about the approach, until they learnt about the community fridge initiative which has gained unprecedented success in Saudi Arabia and few other European countries. Meanwhile, community fridges were already being installed outside restaurants or in public places in a handful of cities like Mumbai, Bengaluru, Kolkata, Coimbatore and Kochi.

Say Goodbye To Throwing Away Excess Food Because Now You Can Donate The Food To The Needy – Happy Fridge

Thank you for overwhelming response for the Happy Fridge concept. We need more funds from you to install more fridges like this across India. With the limited funds avaialble Feeding India was able to install three fridges only. Kindly donate here http://bit.ly/happyfridge

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Needless to mention, with a shocking 103rd rank in the Global Hunger Index and a food wastage estimate of around Rs 58,000 crore – India was perhaps the best country to implement such an initiative. With Gautam’s help, an enthusiastic Rahul invested his own savings to install a ‘Happy Fridge’ outside his residence at Sun City, Sector 54 in Gurgaon. Set up in 2017 by these Feeding India volunteers, the fridge in Gurgaon has inspired the NGO to scale up the project across India.

No one has ever become poor by giving
– Anne Frank

‘Happy Fridge’ fostered many smiles

It didn’t take long for the local residents to learn about this laudable endeavour. They welcomed it, as wastage of excess food was a recurring problem in almost every household. “Intimating the localities was no mammoth task, thanks to social media. However, it was difficult to spread the word among those who actually needed the food,” shares Rahul, who went from auto stands to slums, inviting rickshaw pullers, ragpickers or roadside vendors to avail the community fridge any time they feel hungry. “The security guards of our residential complex played a huge role in explaining how the fridge works to the beneficiaries,” he adds.

The operational and maintenance costs of the ‘ happy fridge ‘ are being maintained diligently by the community members.

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Making memories, sprouting awareness

“I remember one young man who had arrived from a village looking for some menial day job. Somehow he had run out of his paltry savings and had no money to buy one decent meal a day. For about a month, our happy fridge was his solace, till he earned his first salary from a housekeeping job,” shares a jubilant Rahul.

In another incident, a truck driver returning in the wee hours of midnight was starving after a whole day’s hard work. He had run out of cooking fuel at his home, so our fridge was at his rescue.

“The residents keep all sorts of palatable dishes in the happy fridge, ranging from dry snacks, fruits to cooked meals. Sometimes, they even keep raw vegetables, to ensure not a single bit of good food ends up in their trash while other people go hungry to bed,” reveals Rahul.

On an average, each happy fridge supplies around 10-15 meals in a day. The gratitude and pure smiles of the hungry souls after a fulfilling meal are more than enough to continue to motivate Rahul and his neighbours. In fact, inspired by him, many other communities in the Delhi-NCR region set up community fridges in their areas.

Feeding India will set up 500 Happy Fridges

Since the past few years, Feeding India has been a prominent organisation working in the forefront to solve the hunger problem in India. Primarily, they were involved in redistributing leftover food from weddings and parties among the underprivileged people in different cities of India. Their volunteers, better known as “Hunger Heroes of India”, worked actively to bridge the gap between food wastage and food crisis.

“We used to get a lot of calls from individual households to collect their excess food. However, unfortunately, we lacked the manpower and planning to launch our programme on a door to door basis. We were desperately looking for an alternative when we learnt about the community fridges,” shares Srishti Jain, co-founder of Feeding India.

After interacting with Rahul Khera and other campaigners of community fridges, Feeding India decided to amplify this extraordinary project throughout the length and breadth of India. Presently, they have launched the #FightFoodWaste campaign to install 500 community fridges – nicknamed ‘ Happy Fridge ’. So any passer-by – be it a kid going to school without a lunchbox, or a labourer returning home late at night with no promise of a dinner – can now grab a pack of biscuits or a bowl of ‘dal-chawal’ (rice & lentil soup) to satiate their hunger. Click here to contribute for ‘ Happy Fridge ‘ and ensure India never sleeps hungry again.

Feeding India also urges everyone to make a promise to stop wasting food and instead consider donating it to those in need.

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It's not how much we give
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