Efficient management of energy resources is a challenging research area in Wireless Sensor Networks (WSNs). Recent studies have revealed that clustering is an efficient topology control approach for organizing a network into a connected hierarchy which balances the traffic load of the sensor nodes and improves the overall scalability and the lifetime of WSNs. Inspired by the advantages of clustering techniques, we have three main contributions in this paper. First, we propose an energy efficient cluster formation algorithm called Active Node Cluster Formation (ANCF). The core aim to propose ANCF algorithm is to distribute heavy data traffic and high energy consumption load evenly in the network by offering unequal size of clusters in the network. The developed scheme appoints each cluster head (CH) near to the sink and sensing event while the remaining set of the cluster heads (CHs) are appointed in the middle of each cluster to achieve the highest level of energy efficiency in dense deployment. Second, we propose a lightweight sensing mechanism called Active Node Sensing Algorithm (ANSA). The key aim to propose the ANSA algorithm is to avoid high sensing overlapping data redundancy by appointing a set of active nodes in each cluster with satisfy coverage near to the event. Third, we propose an Active Node Routing Algorithm (ANRA) to address complex inter and intra cluster routing issues in highly dense deployment based on the node dominating values. Extensive experimental studies conducted through network simulator NCTUNs 6.0 reveal that our proposed scheme outperforms existing routing techniques in terms of energy efficiency, end-to-end delay and data redundancy, congestion management and setup robustness. (C) 2015 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.