Indore, the capital city of the Holkars since 1818, has seen unprecedented growth in the last fifteen years. The small town of yester years is today a district with more than two million residents. It is clear that the resources are now stretched to the limit. Once a cotton manufacturing hub Indore is flanked by manufacturing hubs in Dewas and Pithampur in Dhar district. Between 1915 and 1919 the eminent Scottish biologist, sociologist, geographer, philanthropist and pioneering town planner Sir Patrick Geddes, FRSE, wrote a series of exhaustive town planning reports on at least eighteen Indian cities including Indore. Modern Indore was built on the recommendations of this report. Today Indore is the commercial capital of Madhya Pradesh but it is an environmentally challenged city.
The city managed with just seven lakes built during the pre-independence era. But now the Narmada has to fulfil the needs of the citizens. The lakes, or at least those who have survived, do not have enough water for the city. The Kahn and Saraswati rivers have become filthy gutters as they flow through Indore city. They have become dumping grounds for garbage and untreated sewage. This sad state of affairs can be seen very clearly when one sees photographs from the pre-independence era when the Residency Boat Club was using a stretch of the Kahn River in the area which houses the Indore Zoo today.
The Nature Volunteers (TNV), which is the leading environment conservation group in Central India, was founded in 1992 by Bhalu Mondhe and Abhilash Khandekar along with Dilip Phadke, Sudhir Soni and Saleel Tambe. Indore had finally got what it had been needing for many years – a group of dedicated nature lovers concerned with the deteriorating condition of Indore and determined to do something about it.
The President Bhalu Mondhe is an eminent photographer, painter, sculptor and nature lover. He had returned to India in the early 1970s after spending many years in the UK and Europe. The condition of Sirpur Lake saddened him and he worked tirelessly to save it. It was during this time that The Nature Volunteers was born. There has been no looking back ever since for this “informal pressure group of environmentally restless people.” TNV had launched a massive campaign to save the vanishing tiger and had collected signatures from all across MP when the state’s tiger population started showing a decline. A memorandum was submitted to CM.
The awarding of Important Bird Area status to Sirpur Lake in November 2015 has been a fitting tribute to the hard work put in by Mondhe and his team. TNV has also published two books which have been well appreciated by nature lovers all over India and abroad. These are : Birds of Sirpur by Bhalu Mondhe, Abhilash Khandekar and Kaustubh Rishi (2012) and Vultures of Panna by Bhalu Mondhe and Abhilash Khandekar (2015).
The Vice President Abhilash Khandekar is a political and social journalist with more than 30 years experience in the print media. He is presently based in New Delhi and is the National Political Editor of Dainik Bhaskar. He is a senior member of the MP Wildlife Board and has covered the Rio Earth Summit as a member of then PM Manmohan Singh’s delegation. A recipient of the 2011 Vasundhara Award he is also the producer and the anchor of the television series Astitva which is dedicated to environmental issues. This is the only serial on Indian television dedicated to environmental issues and is telecast fortnightly on Lok Sabha TV on every alternate Saturday with repeat telecast on Sunday.