What are we without nature? We are nothing without nature. Our development, changing lifestyles, technological advancement everything can be back to normal from the worst but nature can never be back to normal if damaged. World Environment Day is around the corner but it makes no difference if you remember this for just one or two days. No one is asking you to take a big step, but try to take some small steps like planting a tree and making it grow as you grow your children.
Vikrant Tongad, 31, an environmentalist, founder of Social Action for Forest and Environment and a water hero awardee, had his own plans for environmental change from the starting of his career. It all started when he was completing his Master's Degree in Environment in the year 2010. He founded Social Action for Forest and Environment then.
Tongad made his team which included a small team of villagers and he started a water rally, a war of water conservation. The small team slowly started getting support from the rest of the villagers. This small act got bigger and finally resulted in the NGT banning all builders from withdrawing groundwater from January 11, 2013. This victory made Tongad stronger, he later petitioned the government to make modifications to the national policy on groundwater use.
Vikrant comes from a small village - Khedi Bhanauti. What encouraged Tongad to continue his journey was the constant support of the people of his village. Vikrant said, “Youth is our future and I aim to educate young minds through school workshops. Every citizen should be aware of the crisis which are happening in the environment. With support, we can together make the changes.”
Vikrant with another environmentalist has given his contribution to clean the Ganga river. Including active participation in bringing a ban on illegal beach campaigns and river rafting sites, as these camps were demolishing the environment at Rishikesh. One of his successful moves for saving natural habitat in the outskirts of Greater Noida is the wetlands of Surajpur, which is known for a natural habitat of many birds. It almost dried up due to the construction of roadways, parking lot, and several illegal felling of trees.
Vikrant said, “I along with my team met the forest department and later filed a petition in the National Green Tribunal in the year 2016. We succeeded as they consented to the Surajpur area the dignity of protected wetlands in 2018. This was our beginning to save more such wetlands like Dadri, Dhanouri, Hasapur.”
Tongad also fought for reducing air pollution. One of his achievements resulted in a ban on crop burning in the year 2015. Vikrant and his team aimed to plant 1,000 plants this year which they have already started.
Amid Covid, there were many environmental challenges, for which he continuously raised his voice on social media platforms like Twitter. However, he said that there are also limitations of raising voices on Twitter as there are many people who are not active there.
Tongad said that one of the good things that have happened due to lockdown is the betterment of environment. It had a good impact on nature. He said, “Once the Covid situation gets normal, many undone businesses will try to complete as soon as possible. Many developmental works are on hold due to Covid and they will resume at a larger scale. This will result in damage to the environment if necessary measures are not taken. Government and the general public should work on growing more trees. As I said education is a must, this will add a plus point in the development of individuals as well as society. On the occasion of Environment Day, I have asked my team to plant one tree at least. This can be done by everyone on this day.”