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Vikrant Tongad, the founder of SAFE is a self-trained and passionate environmentalist based in Greater Noida (Uttar Pradesh). He started working on various ecological issues in the year 2010 when he was studying in college. At that time, his main concern has been the fast-receding groundwater table in Noida and Gr. Noida region. He researched deeply on the topic. He followed the reports and data released by various central agencies like the Centre Ground Water Authority (CGWA). He realized that the water crisis is largely a human-made phenomenon.
It All Started During His College Days
Vikrant noticed that a significant amount of water is wasted due to excessive water usage through domestic borewells. In his own village, Kheri-Bhanauta, he saw that out of 1000 households, over 50% were using borewells day in and day out, without realizing that this resource is exhaustible. He was only 20 years old when he formed a team of children and youngsters to sensitize villagers on the issue for the first time. He also took out a “water rally” in his own village and nearby areas for spreading awareness. After the rally, a lot of people, mainly youth, joined his ‘save water’ campaign.
Further during the campaign in 2012-13, he realized that a huge amount of groundwater is pumped out by real-estate developers to build the different underground levels of multi-story buildings, and poured down the drain. A study done by some reliable sources showed that the amount of water thus wasted in just one day in Noida and Gr. Noida region during 2012-13 was equivalent to the water used by the locals of that area in an entire year!
Water Victory Laid the Foundation Stone of SAFE
Vikrant approached many government departments and courts to stop the water wastage. Finally, his efforts were rewarded. The groundwater extraction for construction work was banned in Noida and Greater Noida in January 2013.
Several million litres of groundwater have since been saved and gradually, over 500 real estate developers switched to using treated water from Sewage Treatment Plants (STPs) for construction work. The local authorities also earned crores revenue by selling this treated water. This was the first big “water victory” for Vikrant.
Later that year, in July 2013, he established his NGO SAFE with a few other socially-conscious friends. The aim was to solve environmental issues in a professional and organized way.