Dhruv Boruah: The Thames Project

Sunetra Senior Monday 21st May 2018 19:42 EDT

Last September, Dhruv caused quite the watery stir with his bamboo bike, which was used to conscientiously sift through the many creeks and bends of the notoriously murky Thames. An impassioned departure from his tired, corporate routine, the environmental crusader turned to tackle the underreported dangers of plastic pollution more proactively. “I had used nature to escape from city life beforehand,” he commented. “On my many travels, some of which took me to the most remote corners of the planet, I increasingly noticed plastic bottles and debris cluttering up the beautiful landscape: they were getting caught in fishing nets. Marine life, such as turtles, were becoming entangled and struggling. How could I forget this? I left my job in management consulting to affect an immediate change.” Indeed, using a bamboo contraption - itself the former product of one his many escapades, this time to Colombia -  Dhruv was able to graphically reinforce a powerful reusing, refusing, and as the last resort, recycling statement. In a digitally flooded world, his rotating show of responsibility on the water uniquely “drew people’s attention to the cause and became a great conversation starter.”  He prompted active awareness of the issue, refreshingly also using the advertising medium to combat the damaging effect of consumerism. The signature water bike is balanced on two inflated floats where the whole technical body is powered by the back wheel. Now, a whole year on, what started out as a personal project has evolved into a thriving, socially conscious community. Many have joined Dhruv to specially maintain the river on SUP boards, water bikes, canoes and kayaks, and he is currently lobbying governments and councils as well as creating environmentally-friendly proposals for potential political campaigns.


He also encourages documentation of research into plastic litter, “using £20.00 microscopes to sample water,” the findings of which are shared with Thames21 and Thames Estuary Partnership. His local London project has become more advanced and co-ordinated, and has even expanded to other waterways, in addition to the famous landmark. Here, Dhruv emphasised that plastic wastage does not just impact wildlife, but also human health: “having deeply investigate the subject, the truth is very shocking. There is real danger, for example, in the microfibers and microplastics that act as magnets and attract toxic pharmaceutical chemicals. They are in the water we drink, the food we eat and the air we breathe.” But the ethos of his initiative does not end at physical hygiene. Growing up in a remote and rural area of India, at the “foot of the Himalyas,” Dhruv would have to “backpack across rivers” as part of daily life which has “built character and created a curiosity for exploration,” which he feels deserves as much protection: “people’s eyes are not meant for multiple screens – they are meant for stars and experiencing the world. Staying trapped in the office isn’t exactly going to achieve this. When you challenge yourself and look outwards, you are able to grow. You don’t want to become a clone – following the same route of getting a job, a house and car. You’re working so hard for work that isn’t even that well paid! Looking at life creatively and differently has always been the philosophy that’s kept me going.” Sure enough, as well as his professional diversification, the activist has kept his personal pursuits ranging and alive. From Arctic expeditions to ocean sailing and rally driving, Dhruv pushes every earthly limit: “my initiatives always have purpose: there is a tremendous motivation.” Thus, his hands-on approach to the organic surroundings shows us that growing closer to them at once acquaints us with a purer sense of self.

 Are there more social issues you are equally as passionate about?

Yes, I am in interested in mental health, which is the core cause of self-harm in the UK. Having spoken to friend in the emergency services, I know how big a problem this is in London.

Have you observed your work with the Thames Project to have overlapped in this regard? Have you seen people become more cheered and extroverted?

Yes definitely. A recent clean-up project involved around 6 canoes at the Regent’s Canal, and had the young ones having a lot of fun. They said it was like a game. Older visitors, some of whom came from outside the UK, were happy to have connected with London from such a reflected distance. They felt the whole procedure to be de-stressing. It’s good to get more people joining in with this calming effect because they tell their friends about the movement, and naturally want to spread the word.

What else drove you towards this Thames project?

As well as the environment, it’s about doing the activities you can still do while you have the health. You want to explore while your body can still support you – this is the time to take the risks!

Did your explorer’s upbringing change your life perspective in more ways than one?

Yes, coming from a background where there was no infrastructure, and where life was minimalist, gives me a wider scope for experience and options. I’m also much more a doer than a talker. I know that you must act to really change what is happening around you.

What’s been a highlight with your Thames Project?

To see how fast it’s grown! I’m actually trying to form a small national plastic collective at the moment. There is also a small robotics project in the US who I’d like to work with to develop a model for the UK: you can actually log into a small robot and take it out for a spin to collect plastic!

What do you see for the future of this project?

I’d like to promote a circular economy, in which people are thinking of the end life of each product. This would extend the life cycle of all raw materials and reduce waste. Plastic would be retained as long as possible, having been planned for during the design stage. It’s about sustainability.

Finally, do you have a comment on how people can fight plastic pollution on an everyday basis?

Starting small can help. Select one day a week where you go plastic-free: whether it is reusing a coffee cup or cooking instead of ordering out that night. Also: start a conversation. Talk to others to inspire your friends and colleagues to act on the issue of plastic pollution too.


W: If you wish to get involvedplease drop Dhruv an email at [email protected] or visit TheThamesProject.org

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