Monday, October 06, 2008

Sikh guru in Heroes of Environment list

Heaping praises on environmentalist Baba Balbir Singh Seechewal for launching a campaign to clean up the polluted 'Kali Bein' in Punjab, Time magazine has profiled the Sikh sect leader as one of the 30 'Heroes of Environment' selected from across the globe. Describing Seechewal as the man 'who set out to clean up this mess', the magazine lauded him for mobilising people to launch a movement that taught the people why they should clean the 'Kali Bein'.

'We have proved that it is possible to restore our rivers to a pristine condition if we all come together,' Seechewal told the Time magazine.

'It is time to do that on a bigger scale,' he said.

'Kali Bein', the 160-km-long river in Hoshiarpur district in Punjab, was reduced to a filthy drain into which people from more than six towns and 40 villages emptied their waste, leaving neighbouring farmlands parched. The river was revived a couple of years back after Seechewal and his followers took up the cause and raised funds to clean the river, which is now a favourite picnic spot.

Sikhs believe that Guru Nanak Dev attained enlightenment after taking a dip in 'Kali Bein' 500 years back before founding Sikhism.

'In 2000, Seechawal, a Sikh holy man, set out to clean up the mess in the river. The scale of the task was gigantic-volunteers cleared the entire riverbed of water hyacinth and silt, and built riverbanks and roads alongside the river,' the magazine wrote.

Seechawal launched a public-awareness campaign asking the villagers to dispose of their sewage elsewhere and some people revived traditional methods of waste disposal and treatment.

'A government order to divert water from a nearby canal was eventually obtained. As the riverbed was cleared, natural springs revived and the river began to fill up. Since then trees have been planted along its banks and fishing has been preserve biodiversity,' the magazine said.

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