In the year 2000, Sant Balbir Singh Seechewal decided that it was time to clean up a sacred part of the Hoshiarpur district of Punjab, the Kali Bein river.
For centuries, city governments along the river had been dumping their human waste and garbage into this sacred Sikh waterway. After unsuccessfully attempting to convince the governments to stop dumping waste into the river, Seechewal drew on the Sikh tradition of kar sewa (free voluntary service).
That’s when Sant Sichewal (also spelled Sancherwal, Sabarwahl, and Sant Balbir Singh Seechewal) jumped in for a cleansing bath of a different kind: one designed to awaken the people. He began cleaning the river single-handedly until his example, and his many narrations on the history and value of the Bein to Sikh history drew hundreds of followers to the task.
Seechewal built a small team of recruits who would, in turn, teach the local people along the Kali Bein why they should clean their river. Their successful campaign raised funds for equipment, enlisted countless volunteers to provide physical work, and more than two dozen villages began helping in the efforts.
Through kar seva, he and thousands have, in a labor of love of untold hours, cleaned the river.
According to the SikhiWiki, the scale of the task was gigantic — volunteers cleared the entire riverbed of water hyacinth and silt, and built riverbanks and roads alongside the river. When appeals to government and municipal bodies failed to stop dirty water flowing into the river, Seechewal launched a public-awareness campaign to encourage villagers to dispose of their sewage elsewhere.