Fighting for a cause – Coimbatore

For someone who always wondered how we can sustain the resources we have, the incredibly large-hearted and spirited Vice-Chairperson of Pricol, Vanitha Mohan is exactly where she wanted to be. In conversation with RITZ, she tells us about her work and her passion.

Being the vice chairman of a leading automotive components and precision engineered products manufacturing company, Vanitha looks into the financial aspect of it as well as the corporate social responsibility.

Ask her how Siruthuli came about and what it does and she informs us, “In 2003 Coimbatore witnessed its worst phase with ground water table levels depleted and the green cover being lost massively. Drinking water started becoming a demand commodity. The land of River Noyyal was scorching and covered with dust and Coimbatore was emanating heat with little water and green cover to support it”.

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When the citizens started realising the issue and wanted to help, they came together to form Siruthuli – an NGO that addresses water and environmental problems of that region. The name Siruthuli, means ‘a tiny drop’ and was formed as a Trust by a few conscientious corporate business houses of Coimbatore. “Siruthuli stepped up into a large organisation when we got into checking up on water issues, lost green cover and lots of garbage that was seen in and around the city. We work on the four pillars of the NGO – water watch, green guard, managing waste and spread the word”, explains Vanitha.

She believes in the philosophy that water harvesting alone isn’t enough to help sustain water resources. One must involve the people and the citizens in conserving water and water bodies. Which is exactly why, today, Siruthuli has succeeded in saving the city.

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The only major setbacks the NGO faced while working its way up was that the government was initially skeptical about siding this project. “This is something that has to be done. We tried to create a good PPT model and tell them what was happening. But the government can only do so much,” she comments.

How does one become a part of Siruthuli?

Vanitha says there are different plans for different corporates. But a lot of clubs like the Lions Club, the Rotary club and trade bodies too do get involved and volunteer. “Honestly, no one knew about the large water body in the middle of the city. We cleaned it up and now the Noyyal river flows through the city. The river is connected to all the water bodies”, she says.

Ask her about the successful spate Siruthuli has had and she says, “When we started cleaning up the Periekulam there was a sense of ownership that arose from the people. We got them to get involved, and took to social media to invite people. The first time we had about two thousand people attend the clean up event and the following weekend we had a massive ten thousand people show up! I felt like people were filling up the gaps in the city and that’s been our most successful victory so far. People have now started taking ownership of the city, they’ve realised what their role as a citizen is.”

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For someone who is so passionate about the cause, her inspiration has been the late Dr APJ Abdul Kalam. “Dr Kalam used to appreciate our work. He has visited us a few times and gave us lot encouragement from his side,” she informs.

Now, their major focus is on schools and colleges. “Every Friday they have something called Sittukaludan where kids from 5 to 6 schools are taught about what needs to be done and how they can participate. During summer, we take them to different plants to show them around and try and teach them about reducing waste,” shares Vanita.

Between Pricol and Siruthuli, most of Vanitha’s time is taken up as they have to keep thinking up new ways to clean water and manage the waste. But on days when she is not either being Vice Chairperson for Pricol or helping with Siruthuli, she’s relaxing listening to either Tamil or old Hindi music.

As we sign off we ask her about how she manages both her jobs, and to that she says, “One is my bread and butter while the other is my passion. There are different aspects to life and it’s about moving from commitment to passion.” Beautifully put!