G D Aggarwal ends 36-day fast to save Ganga
Satisfied with the Union government's assurance to save Ganga
and its tributaries, 78-year-old environmentalist G D Aggarwal on August 24, 2010 broke his 36-day-old fast. He was offered juice and
fruits by Union environment minister Jairam Ramesh and Uttarakhand CM Ramesh Pokhriyal Nishank at Matresadan Ashram in Hardwar.
In the letter, addressed to the former retired IIT professor, chairperson of the standing committee on group of
ministers (GoM) Pranab Mukerjee assured him that all his genuine demands had been accepted. Before handing over the letter to
the environmentalist, Ramesh read it out from the dais in the presence of over 500 people including social activists, seers and
sadhus. After that Ramesh and Nishank offered him a glass of juice.
The GoM had scrapped all hydropower projects including NTPC's 600MW Lahorinagpala project on Bhagirathi, a tributary of the
Ganga. Aggarwal, however, said he would start taking normal diet only after these decisions were formally approved by National Ganga River Basin Authority
headed by PM Manmohan Singh in its next meeting. Ramesh said he carried the letter to Aggarwal only after the permission
of the PM. Ramesh said Union government had accepted all the demands of the environmentalist.
Prof. G.D.Agarwal fast-unto-death since July 20, 2010
A 77-year-old former Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) professor who has been on fast-unto-death in Haridwar since July 20,
2010 in protest against the hydropower project on Bhagirathi, the volunteers of
Ganga Mahasabha staged a dharna on Manikarnika Ghat . "We extend our support to Agrawal's agitation to stop the Loharinag-Pala
hydropower project," said Ganga Mahasabha general secretary Acharya Jitendra, while addressing the gathering. He said it was a conspiracy to
kill the holy river by passing it through 18-km-long tunnel.
A year back as well, Agrawal had announced fast-unto-death stir on the
banks of the Ganga at Kedar Ghat in Varanasi from Shrawan Purnima (August 5) for saving Bhagirathi Ganga and restoring its original and
natural flow. But, he postponed his fast for a month on the request of a group of locals, led by Swami Avimukteshwaranand Saraswati, the national convener of the Ganga Sewa Abhiyan.
Later, he cancelled his stir in September when he was told that the
Prime Minister office had informed Shankaracharya Swami Swaroopanand Saraswati that the decision to stop work on the project was taken in
August 2009. During his stay in Varanasi, he had said he would keep a constant vigil on the project to see if the government was firm on its decision.
Prof. G.D. Agarwal
G.D. Agrawal, a former dean of IIT-Kanpur, was sitting on a fast for over a month - it began Jan 14 - near Birla temple in the capital, protesting the construction of the Lohari Nag Pala
hydro-electric project in the Uttarkashi region. According to environmentalists, the project is likely to dry up the 125 km stretch of the Ganga between Gangotri and Uttarkashi in Uttarakhand.
Prithviraj Chauhan, minister of state in the Prime Minister's Office, Friday sent a letter to Agrawal apprising him about the government's decision to suspend work on Lohari Nag Pala project.
"For all of us, the Ganga is a symbol of India's faith and culture. And the construction work on
the Lohari Nag Pala was destroying the natural flow of the holy river to a great extent. I am thankful to the central government for taking this into cognisance and stopping the project immediately," said Agrawal.
He was the secretary of the Central Pollution Control Board in the early 1980s,
has been credited with shaping India's policies for improving environmental and pollution regulatory mechanisms. For the past few years, he has been living in Chitrakoot and teaching students at the Mahatma Gandhi Chitrakoot
Gramodaya Vishvavidyala. A bachelor, he is known to follow a spartan, Gandhian lifestyle, living in a
cottage, where he cooks his own meals, wears homespun khadi and travels by bicycle.
On April 14, he wrote a letter to some associates in which he outlined how the quality, quantity and flow of the Ganga between Gangotri and Uttarkashi were being disrupted to generate hydro-electricity.
"Already, long stretches of the Bhagirathi Ganga remain waterless for long periods. In the near future, this may become the state of the entire river. At least the Bhagirathi, upstream of
Uttarkashi, should be spared of any works that disturb its natural flow, ecology, purity or piety. After brooding over it for several months, I have decided to oppose such works with all the might that I have," he wrote.
Mr. Agarwal warns about the long-term changes that would be brought about in the ganga
water that will subsequently affect the aquatic and terrestrial ecology, land use and the overall environment. "Since these are subtle changes and take a long time to become visible, they are generally ignored both by project
planners as well as environmental impact assessment consultants," he says.
There are specific impacts on vegetation and wildlife as well as those brought about by construction and quarrying, which would become immediately visible in the fragile mountain region, says Agarwal.
"Most herbs of medicinal value are found in these pockets of sensitive vegetation. Many important fish species like ‘ hilsa’ are known to migrate to Himalayan uplands for spawning.
Those pushing these projects have conveniently stated that earlier projects have already disrupted this migration. Also, no thought has been given to wildlife,
which is already under threat. Wouldn't the blasting and tunnelling in the Himalayas drive the wildlife further away from their present
hideouts? And, if wildlife cannot survive in the jungles of the Himalayas, where else can they survive?" he asks