Sant Balbir Singh Seechewal was honoured the 'Hero of Environment' title by TIME Magazine, becoming not only the only Indian but also the only Asian to get this distinction.
Incase you're wondering what made TIME magazine bestow such a great honour on Sant Balbir Singh, also popularly known as Eco Baba in India and abroad, it's because he undertook the task of cleaning Guru Nanak's historic river Kali Bein, the 160-km long tributary of Beas , which flows through Punjab all by himself.
"We have proved that it is possible to restore our rivers to a pristine condition if we all come together. It is time to do that on a bigger scale,” he had told Time magazine.
The river bed of Kali Bein used to be a victim of severe domestic and industrial pollution and was teeming with hyacinth and silt and was on the verge of dying, resulting in immense water problems in the neighbouring farms.
Balbir Singh Seechewal gathered an army of volunteers and started work.
They began by teaching local people the importance of cleaning the river, enlisting more volunteers, and raising funds with the help of contributions by the residents of more than 24 villages to purchase equipment required for cleaning.
Together, they cleared the hyacinth and silt from the entire river bed.
Apart from restoring the normal flow of the clean water, the holy man also beautified the river banks with trees bearing fruits, flowers, bathing ghats and brick roads. Additionally, this also ended up solving the water problems in Punjab's Dooba area.
Seechewal, along with his team, also made sure that the people around the area were made aware of the ill effects of dumping waste in the river.
He is more than an environmentalist Sant Seechewal’s works have been widely praised across India and abroad. APJ Abdul Kalam, in many of his speeches, has praised Seechewal’s work as a role model for the nation.
Even the government has sought his help The Central Government has also approached Sant Seechewal for implementation of the Seechewal Model in the cleaning of Ganga. The Government is looking forward to rejuvenating the Ganga with the help of people’s participation in rural areas of the states through which it passes, as reported by TribuneIndia.
Sant Seechewal's works don't stop there. He has also been involved in setting up schools, technical centres and degree colleges, and also works toward eradicating poverty, ignorance, superstition, and atrocities against women.
A crusader for environment, Sant Seechewal has established plant nurseries at Seechewal and Sultanpur Lodhi where one lakh plants are distributed annually free of cost among the people as prasad of the Guru.