Punjab based Sant Balbir Singh Seechewal became the only Asian to be honoured with the ‘Hero of Environment’ title by the TIME magazine.
The TIME magazine bestowed this honour on Sant Balbir Singh, also popularly known as Eco Baba, as he undertook the task of cleaning Kali Bein river all by himself.
The river is sacred to Sikhism because Guru Nanak attained enlightenment here.
The 160-km long tributary of Beas, flows through Punjab and was a victim of severe domestic and industrial pollution in the past.
The riverbed was teeming with hyacinth and silt and was on the verge of dying when Singh took the initiative to clean it up.
Singh took on the task of cleaning Kali Bein in year 2000, with the aid of a large number of volunteers.
The group then went on to successfully clean the river and apart from restoring the normal flow of the water, the group also managed to clean the river bed.
The bank now has trees bearing fruits, flowers, bathing ghats and brick roads. It has additionally up resolving the water problems that Punjab’s Dooba area was facing.
To treat the water, Singh used a low-cost underground sewage model called the Seechewal Model that treats the stored sewage water in a natural way by using it for agriculture and irrigation purposes.
The water treatment system in turn has benefited around 50 villages and has even become the envy of the government.
The Centre has already approached Singh to implement this model in the cleaning of River Ganga as well.
Besides TIME, Singh’s hard work has also been recognised by many national, international organisations and even by the late Dr APJ Abdul Kalam, who had praised Singh’s work in his speeches.
Besides saving the river, Singh has also played an important role in establishing schools, technical centres, degree colleges that have been instrumental in eradicating poverty, superstition and atrocities against women.