Ponds and other water bodies that were once drinking water sources in the villages of Mawphlang in Meghalaya, had started losing significance over the years as piped water made its foray. Once cool and clean, they became dirty and gathered silt.Tambor Lyngdoh, as the secretary of Hima, a traditional system of governance, helped and initiated the revival of these water bodies by encouraging the planting of trees around them, cleaning the water at regular intervals, and other awareness programmes.Water bodies in 70 villages in Mawphlang sub-district are now once again in use for various household purposes. Places where water supply is erratic, in particular, rely on the ponds for drinking water. Thirty-year-old Born Lang Blah from Mawphlang village has vivid memories of his childhood, when men, women, and children would walk downhill to Um Khlaw, the pond to collect water. The water was cool and clean, he said, and it would be used for drinking, cooking, and washing purposes. As years went by and the village grew, the pond began losing its significance. People began using piped water and the pond began gathering moss, and silt during the rains. It was a similar story in most other villages in the area until Tambor Lyngdoh stepped in and helped initiate a movement to revive these little village ponds in almost 70 villages of the Mawphlang sub-district in the northeastern state of Meghalaya. Nature has ensured that all her elements are tightly intertwined, whereby one’s survival or death is dependent on the other. In the case of the “contaminated” water bodies in Mawphlang too, Lyngdoh said that it was their work on the conservation of the sacred groves and community forests that helped in the revival of water bodies. “Contamination, in this case, does not mean garbage dumping,” Lyngdoh clarified at the onset. The local community in Meghalaya is known for its penchant for cleanliness — Mawlynnong in Meghalaya, a couple of hours from Mawphlang, holds the title of the Cleanest Village in Asia. “The problem was more to do with gathering of moss, dried leaves and twigs, and also, of clogging due to the gathering of silt,” he said. This would particularly worsen during the monsoons. With piped water supply under the Public Health Department making its foray into villages, the usage of ponds lessened over time. Born Lang added that with the increasing size of villages, houses came closer to the ponds. “In my village, for example, there are more houses closer to the pond now, than earlier. The pond is downhill and the toilet wastewater, from the septic tanks, seeps into the ground. This also discouraged people from using the pond water,” he said. Sixteen percent of The East Khasi Hills district, where Mawphlang is located, is covered by wetlands. The most important physiological feature here is the Shillong plateau interspersed with river valley, falling sharply in the southern portion forming deep gorges and ravine. The sacred grove in Khasi Hills, Mawphlang, Meghalaya. Watershed, like sacred forests, helps in maintaining water bodies and wetlands. Photo by Prida Ariani/Wikimedia Commons. Mawphlang in East Khasi Hills district of Meghalaya. Map from Datawrapper. Turning a new leaf Awareness—or the lack of it—is the first and the most crucial step in addressing an issue. And in this case, Lyngdoh acknowledged that most of the community members raised the issue of revival of the local water bodies when he, as the secretary of the Mawphlang Hima, approached them about their most pressing problem. Hima is the system of the traditional polity of the local community of Meghalaya, a system of governance by traditional heads. Lyngdoh was the secretary of such a Hima from 1996 to 2011. He then went on to form Synjuk, a non-governmental initiative that implemented the Khasi Hills Community REDD+ project, a UN project for forest conservation and sustainable management, that aimed to protect sacred groves and watersheds and replant degraded land. It was India’s first community-based REDD+ project. “From the year 2013 on, we received enough funds through carbon sales. So we sent a circular to the all villages to come up with a plan of activities, a village development plan, as per their most pressing need. Most of them opted for drinking water sources,” he said. India is one of the countries which has credits for emitting less carbon. Carbon trading is a market-based system to reduce greenhouse emissions contributing towards global warming, particularly carbon dioxide. Countries and companies that earn carbon credits by cutting down their emissions, can earn money by selling those credits. In Mawphlang, Lyngdoh said that this was achieved mainly through Assisted Natural Regeneration, which is human protection and preservation of natural tree seedlings in forested areas. In other words, the community was involved in the afforestation process. “Between 2013 to 2019-20, we have sold 280,000 tons of carbon at 5 USD-9 USD per ton,” he said, “We still have unsold stick of 66,000 tons.” These funds helped initiate a community movement of planting trees near the water bodies, cleaning them at regular intervals and spreading awareness about refraining from fishing during the breeding season. Care was taken that only local species of trees, like Castanopsis indica, Myrica, and Ficus, were planted.