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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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2,00,000 meals served
Emergency funds sent to 350 families, 75000+ meals served, 150+ ration kits and sanitary pads distributed

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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Goonj Is Working With 1000’s Of Volunteers & Partner NGOs To Provide Covid-19 Relief In 18 States

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With the extension of the lockdown the crisis of migrant labourers and daily wagers has just grown bigger due to uncertainty and fear of future. In the migrant colonies, slums and for people in the villages hunger and desperation is building up day by day. This is high time we step up our efforts to support our people who are in dire need of food and hygiene essentials to survive the pandemic, Covid-19.

After the India-wide lockdown, a lot of jobless migrant workers are stuck in cities with hardly any resources while many started retreating back to their villages. With the loss of livelihoods, a large number of them are now struggling to support their families.

Goonj activated its pan India teams and a pan India network of partner organizations and volunteers in urban and rural India. This network, built over the last two decades, helps them learn from the ground, reach material quickly and review and adapt strategy periodically. Intensifying this network has helped Goonj reach and start work across 17produced states/UT in the last three weeks.
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2,00,000 meals served
Emergency funds sent to 350 families, 75000+ meals served, 150+ ration kits and sanitary pads distributed

Goonj’s focus: 

Majority of the Covid-19 relief work by non profits right now is in the metros and cities but Goonj is the only non profit that is also simultaneously focusing on the people in the villages and the ones stuck on highways or somewhere.

Goonj is targeting daily wagers, migrants and other vulnerable groups, who even traditionally are left out like the disabled, sex workers, LGBTQ community.

“COVID-19 is a crisis, yes…But, it’s also an opportunity for us to build the society anew. Not ‘for’ the people…but, ‘with’ the people. And in the process, we will build ourselves too.” – Anshu Gupta, Founder-Director, Goonj.

Direct Monetary and Material Transfer

Wherever Goonj got the permission to open their centres for packing and disbursement of relief material kits, they are creating a kit consisting of 20-30 kgs material including dry rations, masks, sanitary pads and other hygiene material and reaching them to people, as per needs and as per regulations with all safety precautions. This kit will help a family survive for 30 days.

Information till 10th April 2020:

  • Distributed 15,100 ration kits reaching thousands of people
  • Reached 17,700 families
  • Supporting 12 community kitchen across India with 16,600kgs of ration
  • 77,800 food packets provided to migrant laborers and daily wagers walking on the roads across the country.
  • Provided direct financial support to 32 organisations
  • Made 42,800 cloth face masks
  • 24,900 cloth sanitary napkins produced
  • Produced 1500 litres of organic sanitiser

In Goonj’s processing centers its trained team of women are making cloth face masks and cloth sanitary pads (MY-Pads), keeping all the precautions and with the permission and cooperation of the local authorities.

In this lock-down phase if you are facing any difficulty getting sanitary pads or you are running out of stock, here’s a detailed but very simple process of making Cloth Pads at home created by Goonj. “This is how we make Goonj MY Pads.” This is how our mothers and grandmothers turned their spare cloth into pads.

This disaster, unlike any other, is unprecedented in its scale and impact and that’s why we all must do our bit with Goonj to continue its relief work for millions of people in this still unfolding long-tailed disaster.

The need is huge.. We are there.. Need You too !!

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It's not how much we give
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- Mother Theresa Quote
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