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Ajay Rawat
Ajay S Rawat is a rare mix of an academician of international repute and an activist. Since 1984, he took up the responsibility of protecting and reviving the lakes of Nainital, his hometown. He began by writing and raising concern about pollution in the Naini Lake lake and the threat it was posing to the very existence to Nainital towns and adjoining areas. Such efforts generated awareness among different sections of both state and society.
"It is an ongoing battle. First, in the court, when the case is being heard and then, with the executive for the implementation of the court orders. The litigant and the local people have to act as watch dogs," said Rawat, who filed a Public Interest Iitigation (PIL) for the protection of Naini Lake in 1993. The Supreme Court (SC) gave its final verdict in 1995. Since then, the litigant with public support is on the guard. These efforts are paying rich dividends.

The overflow of the Naini Lake during the monsoon passes through the nallah and into the Ballia ravine. The nallah was in shambles and if it had caved in the lake water would have swept off several townships in the foothills. However, these concerns never received attention either from the authorities or of the people living in the plains. Though such mishaps are not uncommon in the region. The SC order on March 9, 1995 effectively addressed the concerns raised. It directed:

  • Proper maintenance of the Ballia ravine,
  • Banning of construction of multi-storied group housing societies in Nainital township
  • Prevention of sewage and other pollutants from entering the lake.
The order has been executed. The proposals of 149 group-housing societies were cancelled by the administration. The height and the area of individuals houses have been fixed. The lake is being cleaned annually. Occasional intervention from the High Court has also spurred up the administration. Recently, the Union Ministry of Environment and Forests has accepted an Rs 98.6 crores plan to revive the lake and its catchment.

The state government has also released Rs 7 crores for the maintenance of Ballia ravine. The works will be completed by 2003, subsequently an afforestation programme will be launched and vegetative spurs will be developed. Every year during the monsoons, residents of the surrounding areas were asked to move to safer places, but not this year.

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