Monday, January 19, 2009

Dr. G. D. Agrawal resumes fast-unto-death


January 19,2009


Dr. G. D. Agrawal resumes fast-unto-death
Protests broken promises


Charging the Government of India with not keeping its solemn commitment to keep the River Bhagirathi alive in its pristine stretch from Gangotri to Uttarkashi, Dr. G.D. Agrawal has resumed his fast-unto-death from Makar Sankranti Day, Wednesday, Jan 14, 2009.
You may recall that Prof. G. D Agrawal, former Professor & Dean of Students at IIT-Kanpur, the first Member-Secretary of India’s Central Pollution Control Board and one of India’s foremost environmental scientists went on a fast from June 13, 2008 to seek uninterrupted flow of River Bhagirathi (Ganga) in its natural form between Gangotri and Uttarkashi. His demand was very limited & specific, i.e., that the River Ganga be allowed to flow in its natural form in this 125 km stretch from its origin. This is the only stretch left now where the Ganga can still be seen in its pristine form.
Dr. Agrawal requested the Govt. of India & the State Govt. of Uttarakhand to stop construction of Hydro Electric Projects (HEPs) in this stretch so that river flow was not diverted through tunnels that would destroy its ecology and its unique self-purifying properties. (Please see attached diagram. A series of dams is planned all along the river from Gangotri to Rishikesh – almost one dam every 25km.)
Indians across the world got sensitised and lent their support to Prof Agrawal. Many wrote or met the PM of India and the CM of Uttarakhand and requested them to protect the Holy Ganga – whom Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru described as India’s civilizational identity. The protest forced the Govt of Uttarakhand to suspend work on two state-sponsored HEPs. After the intervention of a group of IITians and others, the Government of India gave a commitment in writing on 30th June 2008 ‘to ensure perennial environmental flows in all stretches of River Bhagirathi and to keep it alive’. It decided to appoint a group of experts to study the issue and recommend ways to achieve this in three months. On this assurance Dr. Agrawal suspended his fast on June 30, 2008 after 18 days. But he also warned the government that he would resume his fast if this commitment was not kept.
In a cunning move, the GoI asked the Chairman of the National Thermal Power Corporation (NTPC) to form a group of experts to determine the environmental flows that would be required to keep the Bhagirathi alive in the entire 125km stretch. NTPC, a public sector corporation, is building a dam at Loharinag, barely 50 kms downstream of Gangotri. The consequent High Level Experts Group was packed with serving engineers – none of whom has even a working knowledge of the subject of environmental flows and being on the government payrolls dare not take an independent stance (See attached note). Not surprisingly, the steamroller majority of officials is loath to release the environmental flows required to keep the river alive.
In the meantime, NTPC has continued construction of its Loharinag-Pala HEP. More than six months have passed, the group of experts has not yet submitted its report and the pristine character of the river continues to be destroyed. They have not taken cognizance of the recent declaration by the Prime Minister of the Ganga as India’s National river and his announcement of the formation of a Ganga River Basin Authority to take all decisions on activities in the Ganga Basin. The PM himself is the head of this Authority.
Dr. Agrawal does not belong to any party or group. He is a rare individual with a rishi-like lifestyle. The River Ganga and Dr. Agrawal deserve our support. You can write directly to him at bhagirathibachaosankalp@gmail.com and express your support. You can also write to the following urging them to protect the sanctity and integrity of the Bhagirathi-Ganga as promised on June 30, 2008. Also inform others who are interested in saving the Ganga and Dr. G.D.Agrawal.
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For further information contact:

Pavitra Singh: bhagirathibachaosankalp@gmail.com; 9410706109
Dr. Anil Gautam: mobile number - 9412176896, 9759112331
Mabel Gergan: 91-135-2773849, 2763649

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