At 31, Arun Krishnamurthy has already quit a job at Google, set up Environmental Foundation of India (EFI), an NGO. In 10 years EFI has cleaned 83 lakes and the list of lakes to be cleaned is long
Arun didn’t quit his fancy job because he was bored. “I quit my corporate career not because I didn’t like what I was doing, but did so because I liked working for the environment even more!” Arun says excitedly. At work (in Google, Hyderabad) his manager pushed him to perform better at work and use the incentives to pursue his environment work. It set a model for him and gave him the confidence that he can still take care of himself and the environment without a full-time job.
EFI’s primary objective is wildlife conservation and habitat restoration. It focuses on real-time and result-oriented environment conservation work. EFI has over 100 volunteers and is spread across 6 states and 2 union territories in the country.
As a child, Arun Lived in Mudichur, Chennai. He wanted to become a cardiologist but his academic grades didn’t match the systems’ expectations. “My school never pressurized me into becoming someone, they let me be myself which has helped me a great deal in life” says Arun. He went on to study Microbiology at Madras Christian College. “Confidence, leadership, a good job and a beautiful wife, all these were given to me by my college MCC,” says Arun candidly. He went on to study at the Indian institute of Mass Communication, Jawarhal Nehru University.
“Mudichur was the influence to lead me to doing what I am doing now. In 1993, when we moved there, we would see snakes and wild dogs. There was a lake and pond and when it rained, the water would flow through our street. But soon there was a board announcing “Lake View Apartments”. The lake and the animals vanished. So did people during the floods of 2015.” All these events impacted me a lot.
The first ever lake clean-up was in May 2007. 87 people and 6 kids joined him. The Gurunadham Lake in Hyderabad was near his office and he felt very sad that it was so dirty. He got a few people together and started cleaning it. Slowly, the municipal workers joined. He was so impressed with their commitment that he organized a large truck to take away the waste cleared from the lake.
Arun and his team follow a scientific approach towards cleaning and saving aquatic species. On wildlife conservation, the team is currently focusing on freshwater life forms, birds that are dependent on the lakes where many turtles live. Arun plans blocking access to any lake once cleaning is completed so that the aquatic plants and species are protected.
Krishnamurthy won the Google Alumni Impact Award in 2011 for restoring lakes in Hyderabad. The organization and its efforts grew from one pond in Chennai to include over 39 lakes and 48 ponds in Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Pondicherry and Gujarat in the last 10 years.
Arun is also involved in a 16-month project which not only provides physical garbage removal but also puts fencing around the lakes to protect them from human activities. Arun has further introduced an animal ambulance for street animals and established one animal rescue and a rehabilitation centre in Chennai and Hyderabad.
To Arun’s dismay, people don’t stop dumping waste, garbage, sewage and industrial waste in lakes. He has sometimes cleaned the same lake 47 times! In response to a question asking if he felt de-motivated, Arun responded: “No I don’t feel de-motivated. I am being rewarded in many ways. I get to know about nature, about insects, birds and various flora and fauna that inhabit these lakes. I meet both wonderful and not so wonderful people.”
Arun believs in supporting his own foundation financially. His experience at Google taught him that he could run a company and focus on saving the environment. He runs a market research company called Krish Infomedia. It is a Psephology firm that predicts election results. He says he has a track record of predicting most election results correctly.
Arun also does digital advertising and video production. He directed the documentary film ‘Caught By’, which focused on land, sea connection with fish in lake Kurma (2010). He received a British Council International Climate Champion Excellence Award for showing the poor condition of sea turtles and Elixir Poisoned (2011) which highlights the need to protect the aquatic environment. These business ventures help Arun fund all his environmental projects.
Arun has set up 19 biodiversity parks in schools with the belief that the younger generation (below 15 years) respect nature for what it is and conserve it.
EFI has a total of 11 fulltime, 4 part-time staff and several 100 volunteers. It is spread across 6 states and 2 union territories in India with a new branch in Sri Lanka as Environmentalist Foundation International.
Arun doesn’t make much of the glitzy awards he’s bestowed with. “Getting locked into one space and dimension is not worth it as we just have one life to live and so much to experience in this given time,” is his counsel to executives.
The common man is his source of daily inspiration. “Every single individual who has volunteered on the ground is my inspiration. We tend to celebrate a few people but I see a star in every common man. Those who just get work done and don’t claim anything big, are my daily dose