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Citizen Power

How the citizens of Salem, one of the largest cities in Tamil Nadu, India (with a population of more than 1 million people) transformed their local environment.

A decade ago, Piyush Manush, a civic minded resident of Salem, decided to establish the Salem Citizen's Forum (SCF). It's an informal group, set up to revive and then protect Salem's environment, particularly their lake, which was built by the British for irrigating nearby farmlands.

The lake is spread across 58 acres and used to be a major water body of the city. But gradually it became a dumpsite for Salem's municipal solid waste In 2010 SCF took over the work of cleaning the lake But first, they had to get rid of the garbage and then desilt the waterbody. Using the silt of the lake, the SCF created 45 small islands and bunds around the lake were strengthened.

To accomplish this restoration, the Forum had to fight several battles, especially against the real estate lobby. Today, the lake once again looks picturesque and has becom, with a park and many seating areas sprinkled around the lake's edge. Now the residents of Salem comes here to relax, happy in the knowledge that the lake (which can hold 21 million cubic feet of water, drawn from the surrounding hills) is once again an important source of water, both for the farmlands and the city's residents.

If you would like to watch a heart warming 10 minute video showing what the Salem Citizen's Forum achieved, and we highly recommend you do, please just click 'play' below.

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