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G D Agarwal a new rishi to save the Ganga

 
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    Environmentalist G.D. Agarwal

   Environmentalist G.D. Agarwal, continuing for the 102nd day Sunday (September 22, 2013) his fast unto death to save the River Ganga (गंगा) , has now given up water too. G.D. Agarwal, 81, has been on fast in the Matr Sadan Ashram of Haridwar in Uttar Pradesh. He has been demanding that the government take steps to save the Ganga river and its ecology, and ensure that the flow of the river water is uninterrupted. This is the fourth indefinite period fast he has undertaken in the last four years. Last one fast was on the 9th March 2012.

Determined to sacrifice his life for the Ganga

   Environmentalist Prof. GD Agrawal now Swami Gyan Swarup Sanand , who left taking even water from the 9th March 2012, is determined to sacrifice his life for the River Ganga (गंगा) . He refused the requests and arguments of local administrative officials regarding a rethink on his decision. "It is not the question of my life, but it is a matter of pain and suffering of Mother Ganga," he said, putting aside the request for stopping the fast.

   Swami Sanand, who had stopped taking food and was just living on water for a month (from February 8 to March 8), left even water on Friday. He lost some weight on Saturday. According to the records of his medical check up, he lost around 1/2kg body weight in the past 24 hours. A  medical team led by additional chief medical officer RP Tiwari examined his health on Saturday afternoon. His blood pressure was 142/72 while his pulse rate was 82 and weight was 49.5kg. Local administrative and police officials, including the additional district magistrate Ram Yagya Mishra and SP MS Chauhan, met him and requested him to stop his fast unto death.

   "In case of his (Swami Sanand) death, another devotee will take over and the sequence will continue till the goal is achieved," said Swami Avimukteshwaranand Saraswati, the coordinator of Ganga Sewa Abhiyanam and disciple of Shankaracharya of Jyotish and Dwarka Sharda Peeth Swami Swarupanand Saraswati. He forwarded a letter to the Prime Minister through local administration on Saturday, requesting immediate intervention.

   According to him, an open letter to the PM was already sent on January 3,2012 drawing his attention to main concerns. Due respect, importance and status of a national symbol was not being accorded to the Ganga in spite of her being designated as the National River. The major concerns include unsatisfactory and ineffective functioning of the National Ganga River Basin Authority, continuing construction work on dams/barrages/tunnels which would totally destroy the natural flow regimes and quality of the river water, nod to a new 300MW hydel project, total failure of regulatory agencies in controlling discharge of urban and industrial wastes into the Ganga and complete lack of sensitivity of the government on these issue.

   Even the  Swami Nigamanand sacrifice to save the Ganga had made no impact. He had died on June 12, 2011 in a hospital in Dehradun. He had fasted for 115 days in Haridwar for the cause of the Ganga.

     GD Agarwal
  Environmentalist Prof. GD Agrawal now Swami Gyan Swarup Sanand, who left taking even water from  9th March 2012. On March 23, 2012 he ended his fast after the government agreed to call a meeting of the NGRBA  on April 17.

    G.D.Agarwal
    G D Agarwal a new rishi to save the Ganga. A  77-year-old also ended his fast-unto-death to on 20th July 2010. to save Ganga.

  "For all of us, the Ganga is a symbol of India's faith and culture. The Ganga is no  ordinary river — it is revered and worshipped by crores of Hindus,"  says Agarwal

 

  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

 

   "The Ganga is no ordinary river — it is revered and worshipped by crores of Hindus,"  says Agarwal. "It has been proved through scientific studies that  Gangajal has disease- curing, health-promoting and purifying properties at levels much beyond any other waters known. How can you apply the same criteria, the same environmental impact assessment guidelines and the same  economic planning to the Ganga as to some nondescript stream?" he says.

   For the last 25 years, the Central and state governments have been trying to rid Ganga of all pollution, but the results have not been satisfactory. So, would the World Bank loan help the country achieve the goal of 'clean Ganga' in the next nine years?  Noted environmentalist G D Agarwal said, "I doubt the success of the mission. I know the functioning of the system as I have also worked in the same system in the past. It is not possible to clean Ganga without fixing accountability. The pattern is the same, only the label has changed."  G.D.Agarwal had embraced 'sanyas' in Varanasi in first week of July 2011. Now as a sanyasi, he is known as Swami Gyanswaroop Anand.

  Support of religious leaders

   In fact, the issue of faith has drawn many religious leaders to support Agarwal — like yoga guru Swami Ramdev who recently launched the Ganga Raksha Manch. Swami Chidanand Saraswati of Parmarth  Niketan - the head of the largest ashram in Rishikesh — has been another vocal supporter. "We need to understand the consequences of obstructing the flow of the Ganga. If this is allowed to happen, there would be nothing left of the Ganga in 25 years," he says. 

   But if hydel power projects are done away with, how would growing  electricity requirements be met - Uttarakhand, for instance, has a significant hydro-potential of 15,000 mw, out of which only 10% has been tapped. The way out is to adopt a middle path, says Sarasawati.  "Alternate sources of power like thermal or solar power can be explored. Besides, there are many smaller rivers in the region, which can be harnessed, without causing significant changes in their flow."

 

                                                                                                            

 

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