Popularly known as Eco Baba in India and abroad, Sant Balbir Singh Seechewal is living proof of the old adage, cleanliness is next to godliness. He is the one who took the task of rejuvenating Guru Nanak’s historic river Kali Bein, the 160-km long tributary of Beas, flowing through Punjab.
TIME magazine acclaimed him with the title of 'Hero of Environment'. He is the only Indian and only Asian to get this honour.
This is how he pulled off this task:
It all started in 2000. With the help of a large number of volunteers, he successfully cleared the hyacinth and silt out of the river bed of Kali Blein, which was then struck with severe domestic and industrial pollution. The holy man along with his volunteers not only restored the normal flow of clean water but also beautified the river banks with flowers and fruit trees, bathing ghats and brick roads. This also solved the water problems in the Doaba area of Punjab.
His low-cost underground sewerage system model has benefitted around 50 villages. It treats the stored sewage water in a natural way which can then be used for agriculture and irrigation.
Singh has also been approached by the Central Government of India for implementation of the Seechewal Model in the cleaning of Ganga.
From APJ Abdul Kalam (who praised his work in his speeches!) to national and international organisations, Sant Seechewa's work is widely praised across India and abroad.
Not only this, the holy man has established schools, technical centres and degree colleges and also works toward eradicating poverty, ignorance, superstition, and atrocities against women.
Sant Seechewal is also known as 'sadkan wale baba' (road-making holy man), for his work towards constructing 500 km of kutcha roads in the Lohian, Nakodar and Sultanpur Lodi area.