From Google to garbage disposal: the environmentalist cleaning up India’s lakes

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In an interview with CNN, Indian conservationist Arun Krishnamurthy explains why he quit a promising career at Google to lead a community effort to rejuvenate India’s urban lakes.

Speaking as part of the network’s Call to Earth initiative, Krishnamurthy outlines why India is facing a range of water-related challenges, with around 70% of the country’s surface water being polluted according to the Asian Development Research Institute.

Krishnamurthy tells CNN part of this is due to growing urbanisation and garbage-dumping alongside the impact of climate change: “There is excess rainfall in very short term, causing inundation and flooding, and long periods of no rainfall, which leads to water scarcity… All sorts of non-degradable trash, plastic, rubber, thermal coal, all that’s being removed from the water.”

To counter this, Krishnamurthy founded The Environmental Foundation of India (EFI), a non-profit wildlife and habitat restoration group for lakes and ponds that has carried out restoration work on 112 different water bodies across India in the last 13 years.

CNN hears that in order to make these water conservation efforts possible, Krishnamurthy’s EFI had to rally public support across the country and left his role at Google to commit himself to the cause full-time.

Krishnamurthy explains how his own memories of pollution close to his childhood home in the suburbs of Chennai helped him make that decision: “Your childhood memories of something so positive and nice, when it’s snatched away from you, you really want to work towards rebuilding it.”

Named a Young Laureate of the Rolex Awards for Enterprise in 2012 for his efforts to restore Chennai’s Lake Kilkattalai, Krishnamurthy has now expanded his conservation efforts to other cities across India.

In the last year and a half, Krishnamurthy and EFI have rallied more than 62,000 people to volunteer with the organisation, many helping clear out garbage from water bodies. The group also utilises dance, drama and music as part of its outreach to local communities.

Krishnamurthy tells CNN why this public support is so crucial: “I cannot just walk into any neighbourhood and start adopting and cleaning up a lake or a pond unless and until the community there has a buy-in. Otherwise, it’s just my responsibility to clean it up, and tomorrow it will go back to where it was before… It is possible for common citizens to come together, to work together and get something done.”

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