Legend has it that the infant mystic-poet Kabir was found abandoned at Lahartara pond, a freshwater pond, spread over an area of 10 acres (4.04 hectares) in Varanasi. Now, thanks to encroachment, colonisation and hyacinth weeds, the pond is losing its grandeur. Locals also dump household waste into the pond with scant regard for the historical importance of the waterbody.
With the pond swamped and engulfed with wastewater and filth, a team of children and local youth have joined hands to clean the heritage site. “Children gather every Sunday from 5 p.m. and stay at the site till 9 p.m.,” says Ballab Pandey, who spearheads the project.
Twelve-year-old Ramesh says, “This project has helped transform a dumping ground into a big pond of freshwater. It has been a very satisfying cleanliness drive.”
Lately, the commissioner of the city has shown great interest in the project. Fourteen-year-old Anil says, “There is a visible difference in what the pond looked like when we started the initiative and now. We will continue our cleanliness initiative.”
It is sad to look at the state of the historic pond, but the team is unstoppable. They have now also undertaken to clean the 30-feet-deep Khandwa talab, spread over an area of 3 acres (1.21 hectares).
The word Varanasi is derived from the names of the rivers Varuna and Asi. While the Varuna River originates in Allahabad, the Asi River is believed to originate from the Khandwa talab. The children are going ahead full steam to ensure the project's success.
The team cleaning Lahartara talab of hyacinth weeds. The weed drains oxygen from the waterbodies and devastates the water ecosystem.