Rolex company Profile
India’s burgeoning economy is putting pressure on its natural resources. Arun Krishnamurthy is determined to restore the health of an important lake, rallying a community to help him create an oasis of beauty and respite.
Why does a bright, young Indian give up a very promising career with Google for life as an environmentalist? “Quitting Google in 2010 was a tough decision, ” says Arun Krishnamurthy. “They were wonderful employers. But I felt I was slipping into a comfort zone.
“A full-time job left me little free time to follow my true passion, ” says the 25-year-old, who won a Rolex Young Laureate Award in 2012 for his project to restore Lake Kilkattalai, a 1.5 km2 stretch of polluted water at the edge of the city of Chennai in southern India.
This quiet, young man, whose CV is dotted with impressive community-participation projects in conservation and environmental education, does not readily talk about himself. But one way to get him started is to ask him about his most prized possession, a diary he has kept since he was in fourth grade. The diary became truly precious when his mentor, British primatologist Dr Jane Goodall, wrote a few words in it during a visit to India.
“Can you believe it? Dr Jane Goodall, the world’s best-known expert on chimpanzees, wrote in my diary, ” says Krishnamurthy. Goodall inspired him, a microbiology major, to become a full-time environmentalist.
First he ran Roots & Shoots India, under Goodall’s Roots & Shoots network, which assists young people to identify and fix problems in their communities. Then, in 2011, he founded his own NGO in Chennai, calling it the Environmentalist Foundation of India (EFI). Active in three Indian cities, one of EFI’s most exciting programmes is the Lake Biodiversity Restoration project, which has so far cleaned up 12 lakes across India.
Krishnamurthy’s project to restore Lake Kilkattalai has several phases: first, the natural habitat and pollutants are mapped; garbage is cleared; silt is removed and the lake’s periphery strengthened; the last phase involves reintroduction of native aquatic species and plants.
Krishnamurthy says his Rolex Award has been a huge morale-booster. “Since then, we have organized two clean-ups of Lake Kilkattalai. We have removed a lot of garbage, cleaning the southern and eastern ends of the lake. Polythene, thermocol [plastic] and industrial waste that were dumped into the lake over the years have been taken out.”