On February 2nd, all the people from the Gerugambakkam Community had come together to celebrate the World Wetlands Day but with a special twist to it. Gerugambakkam is a suburb located in the southwestern part of Chennai falling under Kanchipuram District. The Gerugambakkam Pond located in the heart of the suburb was once considered and treated as a common dumping ground, turning the pond into a cesspool, allowing no life forms to thrive in it. With sewage inflow, construction debris and a huge amount of non-biodegradable materials (or things that simply do not belong to the pond), this pond was in a dire need of a magical revival to bring it back to its original form. Along with the support of the local residents of Gerugambakkam, and volunteers from the Environmentalist Foundation of India (E.F.I) this waterbody witnessed the change which it had desperately needed. E.F.I had hosted several activities at the Gerugambakkam Pond, which included a series of cleanups followed by the plantation of native herbs along the bunds of the pond and by the end of May 2018, the pond had its sewage inlets plugged, deepened, desilted and fenced. This was later followed by 7 more cleanups at the pond as not all the sewage inlets to the pond were plugged, allowing invasive weeds and plants to grow in the pond. To engage the people and get them excited about the pond near them, something huge and motivating had to be done to get everybody to talk about the environment around them. We must understand that the environment we live in is all for us and ‘us’ refers to all life forms.
To mark the celebration of World Wetlands Day, E.F.I organized a series of traditional and cultural activities at Gerugambakkam. Activities such as a Rangoli competition, a Kabaddi competition, an oratorical competition and also a show of E.F.I’s Street Play themed, “Madras Nalla Madras” were held, to which people could not resist participating in. The community took part in all activities and truly had the time of their lives as they seemed to enjoy all of it to the fullest! The activities kickstarted at 10 AM with several people starting to pour into competing against one another as they had their eyes set on the prize; A free trip to visit the restored waterbodies by E.F.I in Chennai for a day.
As laughter and fun filled the air of Gerugambakkam, the people had seemed to understand the importance of the pond in their neighborhood. The “Special twist” to all the activities was that all of these activities had a connection to the pond! In the Rangoli competition, all the rangolis had a message to the environment or some meaningful information about the pond.
In the game of Kabaddi, all the participants had to say “Kulam, Kulam”(translates to Pond in Tamil), instead of the traditional “Kabaddi, Kabaddi” chant while playing. The oratorical competition had all its topics related to the recently implemented plastic ban in Tamil Nadu.
This way, the people learned more about the pond in their neighborhood and had a new profound interest to protect “their” pond. Everybody left to their homes that day, with an urge to make a change in their community and to restore their pond back to its natural form! At the end of the day, to bring about a change, we must involve the people and sensitize them about the reality of the situation around them. This makes them realize the importance of conservation and its consequences for the future.
Volunteer for India & her Environment with E.F.I