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Conserving the wild, greening cities and saving our lakes
SHWETA SHARMA  30th Mar 2013

EFI volunteers cleaning up a lake side

hile growing up in suburban Chennai near vast lakes, 26-year-old Arun Krishnamurthy had birds and reptiles for company. But owing to the perils of a growing city, his friends and their habitat gradually vanished. "The lakes turned into garbage dumping yards, and though this destruction disturbed me, all I remained was a mute spectator. This urged me to do something environment centric, and I thought of doing result oriented conservation," he says.

Driven by this insistence, Krishnamurthy founded the Environmentalist Foundation of India (EFI) that strives to create a place where the environment is loved and all life forms are nurtured. In order to achieve its mission, EFI identifies the problems and builds solution-oriented strategies.

"Our focus areas are wildlife conservation and habitat restoration, and we have a few projects that focus on animals and their habitats. Through volunteer base and self funds, we initiate projects with necessary government permission. Instead of just being worried about environment degradation, we provide a platform to those who wish to do something about it," he explains.

Their conservation efforts include 'Green Gramam', which is a holistic village development plan aiming to establish eco sustainable villages; 'AniPal', a stray animal care program through which 84 diseased and injured animals have been fed and treated; and 'Waste Not', which offers waste management solutions.

"Our other programme, 'Fence It' is a lake and river restoration program through which we have so far adopted and cleaned 17 lakes across 4 cities. We intend to clean the lakes, restore them with government intervention, and leave it to wilderness for multiple life forms to thrive," he says.

It is for his restoration efforts at Lake Keezhkattalai in Chennai that Krishnamurthy won the Rolex Young Entrepreneurial laureate this year.

"The lake which feeds on the residential area of Pallikaranai marsh is a significant ecosystem in itself. However, urbanisation is having its impact. We have proposed to the Tamil Nadu government to restore Keezhkattalai, and convert it into a bio-diversified hotspot. We aim at dredging and deepening it, then fencing the lake bunds to prevent future encroachment, and also have native species planted along the bund," Krishnamurthy explains. He further states that until now EFI has removed 96 tonnes of garbage from 17 lake clean ups, has cleaned 12 kms of beach in Chennai, and set up 19 biodiversity parks in schools.

Talking about EFI's future plans, Krishnamurthy says that by the end of 2013 they will have a fully functional animal home and mobile hospital in Chennai, 19 kms of beach stretch and 17 more lakes adopted and cleaned. "We are currently working on projects in Chennai, Hyderabad, Bangalore, Coimbatore, Pondicherry, Delhi, Lucknow and Ahmedabad. We wish to strengthen our activities in these cities and then migrate to others," he says.

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