Ramveer Tanwar, who is popularly known as Pondman of India, was born in Dadha village of Greater Noida. A first-generation learner, he grew up grazing cattle and shared close connection with the ponds in the village.
By the time he came of age, Tanwar graduated from mechanical engineering and had a well-paying job at a multinational company. However, he had a different path to follow. The perks of a lucrative job did not captivate him; instead, he was driven by a passion to contribute to a more environment-friendly world.
He saw that the water crisis is a problem in cities across the country, which is likely to get worse in the coming years.
According to The United Nations World Water Development Report 2023: Partnerships and Cooperation for Water, issued in March this year, India is expected to face severe water scarcity by 2050.
To address this crisis, 30-year-old Tanwar took the lead. He left his white-collar job and dedicated over five years to working on this pressing issue. Along with a group of dedicated individuals, he initiated the cleaning and rejuvenation of ponds in urban villages of Greater Noida. Thanks to his tireless efforts, today he is renowned as the ‘Pondman of India’.
“As our ancestors handed down to us a beautiful source of water, it’s our responsibility to ensure we pass it on to the next generation,” Ramveer expressed.
“We embarked on this mission in 2016 and have successfully cleaned 80 ponds in six Indian states: Uttar Pradesh, Delhi, Haryana, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, and Uttarakhand. Currently, three pond cleanings are in progress, with two in Gujarat and one in Ghaziabad’s Dasna area.”
A celebrated environmentalist and TEDx Speaker, Tanwar has been passionate about water conservation since his student days.
He initiated the ‘Jal Chaupal’ campaign in Gautam Buddha Nagar, Uttar Pradesh, encouraging people to conserve water and protect natural resources like ponds, lakes, and wetlands.
When asked about his journey, Tanwar shared, “This was not an accidental program. We began with an awareness campaign in the village focused on cleanliness and gradually shifted our focus to pond restoration because they were neglected and polluted.”
After leaving his engineering job in 2018, Tanwar dedicated himself to pond cleaning and is now the founder of the Say Earth NGO. The organisation actively works on water body restoration, urban forests, and environmental awareness issues.
Tanwar received training from The Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB), Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MOEF), and the Government of India.
“I was working for a multinational company, and during my weekends, I would devote my time to cleanliness efforts. However, juggling a job and this mission proved challenging, so I left my job after two years and committed myself entirely to pond restoration. Today, we have a team of 17 volunteers, with support from civil society, gram panchayats, and the general public through social media and WhatsApp groups.”
Notably, both individuals and large companies now contribute funds to clean ponds. For instance, the cleaning of Ghaziabad’s Dasna area pond is funded by HDFC Bank.
In recognition of his remarkable work, Tanwar has been declared the Brand Ambassador of Swachh Bharat Mission in Ghaziabad and appointed as the district coordinator of the Bhujal-Sena (Groundwater Force) by the Government of Uttar Pradesh.
Explaining the cleaning process, he said, “We use machines and labour to remove garbage from ponds and dispose of it at designated landfill sites. For this, we also require government permission. The cost of pond cleaning varies from five lakh to 50 lakh, depending on the pond’s size. We also plant trees around the pond.”
Tanwar’s campaign has created employment opportunities for locals as well.
“After the cleaning process, we let the pond rest for around two years and then hand it over to the gram panchayat committee or individuals interested in fisheries, lotus cultivation, or chestnut farming in the ponds.”
Many prestigious institutes and organisations, including IIT and IIM, invite Tanwar to deliver lectures and seminars to educate students. He has served as a keynote speaker at TEDx Speaker 2019, IIT (BHU), JNU, Central University Pondicherry, IISER Kolkata, Amity University, Infosys Gurgaon, MANAGE Hyderabad, Zeiss Delhi, among others. He also travelled to Japan to learn advanced techniques for pond cleaning.
When asked about his livelihood after leaving his job, Tanwar explained, “Initially, I offered tuition for a year, but when universities invited me to lecture on my campaign, I stopped tutoring. They provided compensation. Additionally, I worked as a consultant for an NGO, which became a source of income. IIT Roorkee, IIM Rishikesh, and others invited me to deliver lectures.”
Tanwar has received international recognition for his work, including the Shining World Protection Award from Taiwan with a grant of 10,000 US dollars and the Rex Karamveer Chakra Award instituted by iCONGO and the United Nations (UN). He has also been praised by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Mann Ki Baat and honoured twice by Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh, Yogi Adityanath.
Reflecting on his journey, Tanwar said, “I’m very happy with this work. I’ve received numerous awards and recognition from both state and central governments.”
When asked about the impact of his mission on society, particularly in promoting sanitation and cleanliness, he responded, “Although there’s no specific parameter to measure its impact, many young individuals are stepping forward to join the cause and engage in cleaning efforts.”