NOV 2019  
Keep Pondicherry Clean: The Story of Four Eco-Warriors

Four soft-spoken and polite people, eco-warriors in their own right not only gave me great company for a day but put me in awe of how a handful can ‘heal the world’. All four professionals worked in different places yet got together on a regular basis to coordinate their mission of keeping Pondicherry (now Puducherry) clean for absolutely nothing but satisfaction of the highest order.  Vijaya Lakshmi, Vijay Kumar, Kandha Kumaran, and Kannan were very different people in everything except their motivation to be environmental stewards. Shocking was the fact that they used half of their hard-earned money for all activities concerning environmental wellness. Being in the prime of their youth, I wondered what ignited this kind of a motivation in these fearless four.

The Beginning

Four years back, Kannan, the undeclared founder of the Keep Pondicherry Clean (KPC) team was moved by a dog that choked to near death when it tried to eat chicken noodles from a carry bag. Every second of trying to save the dog pricked his conscience as an educated, responsible citizen, and an ideal human being. He put social media platforms to the best use possible to connect with unseen people for a noble cause. Around 170 Sundays meant removing trash from the beach promenade of Puducherry rock beach.  There were days when only one volunteer or less than a dozen turned up. Nothing deterred the small, like-minded team from moving forward with its mission and vision, a clean Puducherry.

Together, They Flourish…

Slowly and steadily, educational institutions started to pay heed to loud and clear voices from KPC. Students from Sri Venkateshwara engineering college, Pondicherry University- community college, Pondicherry University, Aravind Eye Hospital, Sabari Vidyashram, Vidhya Niketan, their NSS volunteers, NCC cadets, Thulir foundation, NGOs,  and tourists from India and abroad began their tryst with KPC that believes ‘many hands make light work’. What began at the beach promenade spread to water bodies, abandoned agricultural lands, and heritage areas, thereby watched, heard, and imitated by many. That the science of good deeds is easy to teach and learn isn’t a myth is being proved over and again by KPC.

The Breakthrough…

Tweeting on daily activities and their impact on society was another mundane activity of Kannan until he knew he was read every day by none other than the Lieutenant Governor (LG) of Puducherry who invited him for a meeting post which Kannan’s confidence and optimism grew by leaps and bounds. He was able to recognize the importance of his own voice and power to restore a liveable planet. The next few days were more fruitful given the way the municipal officers cooperated with KPC’s initiatives making them feel confident and secure in their abilities.

Collaborating with  Like Minds

Taking part in Raj Nivas’ Swachh rallies on weekends was an added motivation. Sooner or later Raj Nivas interns blended quite well with KPC team. Networking with like-minded stalwarts led to more volunteers and bigger crowds that made mission KPC grow bigger and better. For instance, awareness programmes for the construction of toilets in Thondamanatham village turned out to be more efficacious with Devansh Yadhav, IAS leading the team.

There is no doubt that the whole team has a deep sense of social justice and a desire to make an impact embracing civic engagement and help communities thrive in a clean environment. KPC team also learnt that idealism and intent will turn into fearless actions with the powerful on the forefront only after LG Dr Kiran Bedi joined them in their Sunday mission for a start and from then on with many other activities of KPC directly or indirectly. Sensitizing tourists who usually bring a wave of trash seems like a gargantuan task which the team is hoping to face by breaking it down to small pieces with the help of able volunteers who can also tackle unruly tourists, especially during New Year, Diwali, Christmas, and other holidays.

Self Help Is the Best…

Removal of water hyacinths from Kanagan Lake over a period of 2 years was another achievement that’s worthy of a recall. It takes a lot of courage for any human to get inside deep infested, polluted, and foul-smelling water body. Contrary to beliefs, horror incidents of snake bite, injuries from medical wastes, and so on intensified the process of cleaning every time the municipality or PWD displayed a lackadaisical attitude. As hard as it seems, it is possible to make a difference and so did KPC. Once again their good work caught the attention of LG Dr Kiran Bedi who in her capacity made sure departments carried out their respective responsibilities. A boathouse beautified the lake and so did trees such as peepal, pongam, black plum tree, palmyra, neem, bamboo, arjuna and malabar neem planted by KPC with volunteers from KPC, Raj Nivas, Vidhya Niketan, Indira Gandhi Arts and Science college, Pondicherry University community college, Perunthalaivar Kamarajar Medical College, and  NGOs.

With hard work and perseverance yielding the desired results, KPC took the next plunge. Neglected Thiruvandarkoil Lake was adopted and Puducherry witnessed its revival as a clean and beautiful lake dotted with palm tree saplings. KPC chose palm trees as they require no manure or fertilizer to grow and can survive droughts as well. Kudos to Vijay Kumar who effectively coordinated, successfully completed, and vigilantly monitors the health of the lake till date in addition to volunteering at Aranya Forest.

Once the LG took up the initiative of mechanically deweeding and cleaning Velrampet Lake, a breeding ground for pigs, KPC wasted no time in doing their best part with complete focus and commitment. 

Awards Raise Them Up…

Raj Nivas’ ‘2019 Front Runner Award’ and a certificate of commendation from the Hon’ble LG propelled KPC in their mission and then the radiant environment wellness ambassador award 2019 happened. Though it didn’t surprise them because they were beginning to believe good works are supposed to be known and encouraged, the award made the team visible to a whole lot of people doing their bit for humanity’s wellness.

Seeding, the In Thing

Even though, saplings required by KPC were supplied by the forest department and Aranya forest, the team equipped themselves to make their own seed balls. Exactly as they believed that all it takes is one idea and the right mix of determination and willpower to effect change at the local level, the team supplied seed balls to be given away as return gifts  in traditional ceremonies, school and college day celebrations,  and some industries have begun to buy seed balls from KPC.

Being Aware…

That we are never alone induces self-consciousness in everybody to help themselves by helping others. Of all the 46 programmes KPC conducted on waste management, water conservation, and wildlife protection in quite a few educational institutions, they found that people responded best to water conservation strategies and activities because water scarcity affects people directly day in and day out. Through these programmes, KPC also works hard to prick the conscience of people who litter in public places and educate citizens to handle those who trash, appropriately.  Many instances of people confronting fellow beings who trash public places have instilled hope in KPC that their journey is worth it. It is true that awareness without action is worthless.

Never in Dearth…

With no funding from anywhere KPC manages to carry on their plans effectively in time and on time at all times. Investing their hard earned money on public services in the real sense makes them grow richer in terms of happiness and contentment. The level of understanding between Kannan and his team is so unique that it makes me wonder if they really met in a virtual world. Spending a day with them helps me understand that they are not on the pursuit of KPC but selflessness in the service of others. For the first time as a freelancer, I came across a group of youngsters who are determined to do unlimited good work with limited resources without complaining and without trying to network for funds’ sake.

Bidding adieu to these vibrant four and feeling so thankful for having known them, I knew it is time each one of us take small steps every day to celebrate all unsung silent warriors who toil so hard to change this world for good. Being better together simply makes sense. 

Article contributed by Dr Elsa Lycias Joel.

© TERI 2020

Nominations open for CSP Today India awards 2013

The inaugural CSP Today India awards ceremony takes place on March 12, and CSP developers, EPCs, suppliers and technology providers can now be nominated.

CSP has made tremendous progress since the announcement of the Jawaharlal Nehru National Solar Mission in 2010. With Phase I projects now drawing closer to completion, the first milestone in India’s CSP learning curve is drawing closer. CSP Today has chosen the next CSP Today India conference (12-13 March, New Delhi) as the time for the industry to reflect upon its progress and celebrate its first achievements.

At the awards ceremony, industry leaders will be recognized for their achievements in one of 4 categories: CSP India Developer Award, CSP India Engineering Performance Award, CSP India Technology and Supplier Award, and the prestigious CSP India Personality of the Year.

Matt Carr, Global Events Director at CSP Today, said at the opening of nominations that “CSP Today are excited to launch these esteemed awards, which will enhance the reputation of their recipients. I am particularly excited to launch the CSP India Personality of the Year award, a distinguished honor for the industry figure deemed worthy by their peers.”

All eyes will be on the CSP Today India 2013 Awards when nomination entry closes on February 4 and the finalists are announced on February 11. The awards are open to all industry stakeholders to nominate until February 4 at or by e-mail to [email protected]

Matt Carr
+44 (0) 20 7375 7248
[email protected]