AT A GLANCE
- On a school trip to Meedi Kunta lake in Hyderabad, students of Fountainhead Global School dicscovered it was in its dying throes
- Resolving to revive it, they began a project guided by their teachers which included cleaning and repairing – at a cost of Rs 2 crores.
- The lake is now teeming with life
By breathing life back into a dying lake in the city of Nizams and pearls, a husband-wife team of educationists has proved that regular citizens can take efforts to effect positive change.
The founders of Hyderabad-based Fountainhead Global School, Meghana Musunuri and husband Sridhar Vunnam, didn’t have the smallest inkling that a routine interaction session would evolve into a student-propelled movement to rescue a 15-acre lake from certain death.
Way back in June 2019, Meghna was giving her students a freewheeling talk on children’s rights and responsibilities. She asked them a random question about lakes, forests, rivers: who do you think they belong to?
“The younger kids replied God, and the older ones said the government. Then I said, you know, they belong to you. Suddenly the conversation veered to ownership. They were keen to see a forest or a river, which was out of the question because we live in Hyderabad. So, they settled for a visit to Meedi Kunta lake, located close to school.”
The sprawling city of Hyderabad, famous for the imposing Hussain Sagar lake and a few other major water bodies, was once home to thousands of lakes of varying sizes. However, rapid urbanization, and land-grabbing by unscrupulous elements have spelt the death-knell for a majority of these lakes.
Today, most of these water bodies exist in varying stages of neglect – filled with garbage and sewage, choked with weeds, encroached upon by land sharks. Meedi Kunta lake was one such, struggling to survive against the odds.
Devastated to learn the lake was in its dying throes, the young students felt they should revive it if they really owned it.
And thus began the amazing journey of the couple who egged on by the earnestness of a band of young school children, went on to revive Meedi Kunta lake.
Even as the customary rounds began to government offices obtain the mandatory permissions, Meghna created an awareness kit for the children to use in their interactions with potential contributors to the cause.
Met with suspicious residents, nonchalant authorities and troublemakers of varying hues, the school did not lose determination, instead, pushed on doggedly.
The students raised awareness through fundraising drives, awareness runs and walks, tea parties near the lake and flash mobs.
A year 10 student V. Bilvoa created a mascot called ‘Cheru’ symbolizing the lake goddess.
Within months, the blueprint for salvaging Meedi Kunta lake was worked out, and the collections for the project began to come in.
But the raised sum of Rs 10 lakhs was a far cry from the actual sum estimated: Rs 2 crores. This included the cost of dredging and cleaning operations that required the hire of specialised equipment and manpower.
Sridhar, a director at the school, chipped in with his own funds, the project now becoming a passion.
With COVID lockdown March 2020 onwards, it was Sridhar who literally camped at the lake throughout the mission.
“When I found it difficult hiring local lorries for transporting the garbage and other diggings, I had to arrange tractors from my village,” he revealed. “Gradually, local people understood our good intentions and started coming forward to help in terms of equipment hire and other requirements. In between, work suffered also because of heavy rains that devastated Hyderabad. But lockdown also proved beneficial, as few people ventured out allowing us to finish our task without much disturbance.”
The major part of 2020 was spent in revival measures such as dredging the lake bed, redirecting sewage inflows away from the lake, shutting down unauthorised borewells in the lake storage area, repairing the lake embankment, and laying a walkway around it.
By 2021, the impact could be seen and felt. Even the fish that were released into the lake began to survive and thrive. With lockdown lifted, students and local residents are now enjoying the benefits of a revived lake in their vicinity.
Today, the Meedi Kunta lake is a picture of serendipity. The water is cleaner, sewage no longer creeps into the lake as it used to, the fish survive and are beginning to thrive, while the surrounding greenery is enriched too.
But Meghana and Sridhar are not the types to sit back on their laurels. They have plans now to set up a biodiversity lab in the lake’s vicinity.