Lake War­rior - Arun Kr­ish­na­murthy

At 31, Arun Kr­ish­na­murthy has al­ready quit a job at Google, set up En­vi­ron­men­tal Foun­da­tion of In­dia (EFI), an NGO. In 10 years EFI has cleaned 83 lakes and the list of lakes to be cleaned is long

Sustainabilitynext - - Impact Business - By Vaani Anand

Arun didn’t quit his fancy job be­cause he was bored. “I quit my cor­po­rate ca­reer not be­cause I didn’t like what I was do­ing, but did so be­cause I liked work­ing for the en­vi­ron­ment even more!” Arun says ex­cit­edly. At work (in Google, Hyderabad) his man­ager pushed him to per­form bet­ter at work and use the in­cen­tives to pur­sue his en­vi­ron­ment work. It set a model for him and gave him the con­fi­dence that he can still take care of him­self and the en­vi­ron­ment with­out a full­time job.

EFI’s pri­mary ob­jec­tive is wildlife con­ser­va­tion and habi­tat restora­tion. It fo­cuses on real-time and re­sult-ori­ented en­vi­ron­ment con­ser­va­tion work. EFI has over 100 vol­un­teers and is spread across 6 states and 2 union ter­ri­to­ries in the coun­try.

As a child, Arun Lived in Mu­dichur, Chennai. He wanted to be­come a car­di­ol­o­gist but his aca­demic grades didn’t match the sys­tems’ ex­pec­ta­tions. “My school never pres­sur­ized me into be­com­ing some­one, they let me be my­self which has helped me a great deal in life” says Arun. He went on to study Mi­cro­bi­ol­ogy at Madras Chris­tian Col­lege. “Con­fi­dence, lead­er­ship, a good job and a

beau­ti­ful wife, all th­ese were given to me by my col­lege MCC,” says Arun candidly. He went on to study at the In­dian in­sti­tute of Mass Com­mu­ni­ca­tion, Jawarhal Nehru Univer­sity.

“Mu­dichur was the in­flu­ence to lead me to do­ing what I am do­ing now. In 1993, when we moved there, we would see snakes and wild dogs. There was a lake and pond and when it rained, the water would flow through our street. But soon there was a board an­nounc­ing “Lake View Apart­ments”. The lake and the an­i­mals van­ished. So did peo­ple dur­ing the floods of 2015.” All th­ese events im­pacted me a lot.

The first ever lake clean-up was in May 2007. 87 peo­ple and 6 kids joined him. The Gu­runad­ham Lake in Hyderabad was near his of­fice and he felt very sad that it was so dirty. He got a few peo­ple to­gether and started clean­ing it. Slowly, the mu­nic­i­pal work­ers joined. He was so im­pressed with their com­mit­ment that he or­ga­nized a large truck to take away the waste cleared from the lake.

Sci­en­tific Ap­proach

Arun and his team fol­low a sci­en­tific ap­proach to­wards clean­ing and sav­ing aquatic species. On wildlife con­ser­va­tion, the team is cur­rently fo­cus­ing on fresh­wa­ter life forms, birds that are de­pen­dent on the lakes where many tur­tles live. Arun plans block­ing ac­cess to any lake once clean­ing is com­pleted so that the aquatic plants and species are pro­tected.

Kr­ish­na­murthy won the Google Alumni Im­pact Award in 2011 for restor­ing lakes in Hyderabad. The or­ga­ni­za­tion and its ef­forts grew from one pond in Chennai to in­clude over 39 lakes and 48 ponds in Tamil Nadu, Ker­ala, Kar­nataka, Andhra Pradesh, Te­lan­gana, Pondicherry and Gu­jarat in the last 10 years.

Arun is also in­volved in a 16-month project which not only pro­vides phys­i­cal garbage re­moval but also puts fenc­ing around the lakes to pro­tect them from hu­man ac­tiv­i­ties. Arun has fur­ther in­tro­duced an an­i­mal am­bu­lance for street an­i­mals and es­tab­lished one an­i­mal res­cue and a re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion cen­tre in Chennai and Hyderabad.

To Arun’s dis­may, peo­ple don’t stop dump­ing waste, garbage, sewage and in­dus­trial waste in lakes. He has some­times cleaned the same lake 47 times! In re­sponse to a ques­tion ask­ing if he felt de-mo­ti­vated, Arun re­sponded: “No I don’t feel de-mo­ti­vated. I am be­ing re­warded in many ways. I get to know about na­ture, about in­sects, birds and var­i­ous flora and fauna that in­habit th­ese lakes. I meet both won­der­ful and not so won­der­ful peo­ple.”

Self-funded

Arun be­lievs in sup­port­ing his own foun­da­tion fi­nan­cially. His ex­pe­ri­ence at Google taught him

that he could run a com­pany and fo­cus on sav­ing the en­vi­ron­ment. He runs a mar­ket re­search com­pany called Kr­ish In­fo­me­dia. It is a Psephol­ogy firm that pre­dicts elec­tion re­sults. He says he has a track record of pre­dict­ing most elec­tion re­sults cor­rectly.

Arun also does dig­i­tal ad­ver­tis­ing and video pro­duc­tion. He di­rected the doc­u­men­tary film ‘Caught By’, which fo­cused on land, sea con­nec­tion with fish in lake Kurma (2010). He re­ceived a Bri­tish Coun­cil In­ter­na­tional Cli­mate Cham­pion Ex­cel­lence Award for show­ing the poor con­di­tion of sea tur­tles and Elixir Poisoned (2011) which high­lights the need to pro­tect the aquatic en­vi­ron­ment. Th­ese busi­ness ven­tures help Arun fund all his en­vi­ron­men­tal projects.

Arun has set up 19 bio­di­ver­sity parks in schools with the be­lief that the younger gen­er­a­tion (be­low 15 years) re­spect na­ture for what it is and con­serve it.

EFI has a to­tal of 11 full­time, 4 part-time staff and sev­eral 100 vol­un­teers. It is spread across 6 states and 2 union ter­ri­to­ries in In­dia with a new branch in Sri Lanka as En­vi­ron­men­tal­ist Foun­da­tion In­ter­na­tional.

Arun doesn’t make much of the glitzy awards he’s be­stowed with. “Get­ting locked into one space and di­men­sion is not worth it as we just have one life to live and so much to ex­pe­ri­ence in this given time,” is his coun­sel to ex­ec­u­tives.

The com­mon man is his source of daily in­spi­ra­tion. “Every sin­gle in­di­vid­ual who has vol­un­teered on the ground is my in­spi­ra­tion. We tend to cel­e­brate a few peo­ple but I see a star in every com­mon man. Those who just get work done and don’t claim any­thing big, are my daily dose of mo­ti­va­tion.”

Kapra Lake

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