The State Reserve Police force is instrumental in managing disasters, anti-Naxal operations, security of vital installations, amongst other wide-ranging functions. But the Amravati battalion in Maharashtra does a little more apart from their regular tasks. Recently, commanding officer Harssh Poddar smashed cop stereotypes by taking up groundbreaking projects pertaining to environmental conservation with his team.
Poddar had only recently shifted to Amravati’s SRPF base in the second half of 2020, and that's when he noticed a waterbody that lay between the city and the SRPF battalion base camp. The area was being used as a dumping ground, clogged with garbage. Additionally, owing to large-scale fishing, huge quantities of plastic nets and fishing gear were being dumped into the lake, leading to plastic and water pollution. This disturbed Poddar, as he believed that nature fills you with abundance when you respect it. Pondering over what can be done, he sensed that for a drought-prone region like Amravati, this lake could be the panacea to several problems related to water scarcity.
Bringing life back
Gearing up, the team cleaned the lake, totally free of any garbage, stirred the silt clear of any residues and rejuvenated the waterbody. To maintain the biological oxygen demand, they also planted 3 varieties of aquatic plants in the water that were known to pump out immense oxygen. In a month, micro-life had started growing. Tiny fish were found along with a few aquatic plants growing on their own.
Towards December 2020, local birds flocked the waterbody. Even migratory birds began visiting the lake. Around 72 different bird varieties were spotted, out of which 30 were never seen before in the city. The rare species of Comb Duck was also found. After such development, the team was curious about the water quality. They got the water samples tested and to their joy, it was found to be potable.
Preventing man-animal conflict
After the lake rejuvenation became a successful project, a potential man-animal conflict simmering up in the outskirts of Amravati piqued Poddar’s interest. Due to acute water shortage and drying up of streams in the forest, leopards would come in search of water to the city. Because of this, every year they pick up a dog or two on their way. For instance, in the summer of 2020, leopards were seen prowling outside the houses of the SRPF staff. A pet dog was dragged from the courtyard of a house. “Today it is a pet dog but it is just a matter of time when a child or a baby could be killed,” Poddarsaid while sharing his concern.
To put an end to this issue, in winter 2020, the SRPF team led by Poddar created small water pools in the forested parts of the campus. These pools were internally connected to the lake that was rejuvenated. They also installed camera traps to monitor the animal movement near the pool. “The footage showed cubs and adult leopards coming in search of water and finding respite in the water pools. A deer was also spotted quenching its thirst,” he said. Further helping and solving the problems of the leopard movement near the police quarters. While also putting the lake to a cause.
Emphasising how in the current times of climate crisis it is crucial to contribute our best to nature, Poddar concluded that he and his team would be willing to take up many such projects in the days to come and place conservation under the spotlight.