Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Letter from Sri. Sagar Dhara on Prof. Agarwal's fast unto death

2008/5/21 Sagar Dhara <sagdhara@mail.com>:
Dear friend:

Dr GD Agarwal, former Dean, IIT'K and former Member secretary, Central Pollution Control Board, and a very respected personality in the environmental engineering world in India and South Asia has decided to go on a fast unto death against the damming of the River Bhagirathi. I am attaching material that explains his decision.

If you agree with the cause for which GD is fighting, I request you to send a letter to the PM to this effect (a draft is attached, but you may change it). I also request you to have your letter endorsed by people you know who may agree to sign your letter to the PM.

A delegation of concerned citizens is attempting to meet the PM in about a fortnight from now to appraise the PM of the situation. If you do decided to spare a little time to collect signatures from others, since time is short, it may be advisable to collect signatures from a few prominent persona. But do send the letter to the PM to reach by this month end, with a copy to Mr S K Gupta, Envirotech Instruments, A-271, Okhla Phase 1, New Delhi 110020 (envirotech@vsnl.com), who is part of the concerned citizens in Delhi who are coordinating efforts to support GD for the cause he has taken up.

Best wishes.



Your address


Dr. Manmohan Singh

The Hon’ble Prime Minister of India

Government of India, South Block,

New Delhi 110 001


Subject: Conservation of BHAGIRATHI River

We understand that a series of Dams are being planned for construction on the river Ganges between the Gangotri glacier and Uttarkashi for generation of Hydropower. Construction of a dam disturbs the natural flow regime, ecology, and the belief of devout Hindus in purity of the river Ganges that they consider sacred. Thinkers and social workers of present times, such as Pandit Mohan Malaviya and our respected past Prime Minister Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru, have written how it binds the population of India with countless beliefs and faith.

Urbanization and non-sustainable industrial development has sullied Ganga and other rivers. To correct the wrong done, river conservation programs were launched. The first such effort was formulated as ‘Ganga Action Plan’ under the directions of former Prime Minister, late Shri Rajiv Gandhi.

Except in the Himalayan reach, the Ganges is made to carry sewage from cities and foul wastes from industries. Large amounts of water are abstracted. Now the onslaught is on the Himalayan reach, on the River Bhagirathi. First, the Tehri dam was built, then Maneri Bhali II at Uttarkashi. Next a series of 5 dams are planned or being built between the Gangotri glacier and Uttarkashi for generation of hydropower. At these sites water is stored, then released periodically through tunnels at suitable locations where power houses are built, back into the stream channel. The same is repeated again (and again) further downstream. The result is that in long stretches and over considerable period of time, there is no flow in the channel. The Ganges runs dry.

The final insult is that the Environment Impact Assessment report of the projects, states that no monument of historical, religious or archaeological value is affected!

Professor Dr. G. D. Agrawal, formerly Professor and Dean at IIT, Kanpur, and Member Secretary, Central Pollution Control Board, a noted teacher, a renowned environmentalist and a devout Hindu, in protest of such callous attitude, has decided to go on fast from June 13, 2008, until death, unless it is decided that henceforth, all development work which affects the flow in the stream channel between Gangotri and Uttarkashi is stopped.

I/we strongly agree with the stand taken by Professor Agrawal. It is a matter of making choice between a thousand megawatts of power and upholding the faith of billions of people. We request you to kindly intervene and halt the headlong destruction of the national environment, and the loss of bio-diversity and human life and preserve India's ecological future.

Thanking You,

Yours Truly,

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Dr. G. D. Agrawal Scientist and Rishi

Dr. G. D. Agrawal Scientist and Rishi

Meeting Dr. G. D. Agrawal in his spartan, two room cottage in Chitrakoot, Madhya Pradesh, you would never guess what an accomplished and distinguished scientist he is – first Member-Secretary of the Government of India’s Central Pollution Control Board, former Head of the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering at IIT Kanpur and a PhD from the University of California, Berkeley. The list goes on and on.

Yet this eminent professional sweeps his own floors, washes his own clothes and cooks his own meals. He retains only a few possessions and dresses in homespun khadi. At the age of 76, his main mode of transport within Chitrakoot is a bicycle and when he travels further afield, he goes by ordinary bus and second-class train. These are the deliberate choices of a devout Hindu whose deepest values are for simplicity and reverence for nature. Dr G.D. Agrawal is the doyen of environmental engineering professionals in India. Well past retirement, he continues to teach and inspire students as an Honorary Professor of Environmental Sciences at the Mahatma Gandhi Chitrakoot Gramodaya Vishwavidyalaya, in Chitrakoot (M.P.).

Dr Agrawal is a much sought-after EIA (Environmental Impact Assessment) consultant and a Director of Envirotech Instruments (P) Limited, New Delhi – a company that he established with some of his former students from IIT-Kanpur. He is an engineer’s engineer, the person senior professionals turn to for solutions to difficult technical problems. At CPCB he was instrumental in shaping India’s pollution control regulatory structure. He has been a member of various official committees for policy-making and administrative mechanisms to improve India’s environmental quality.

Dr Agrawal is a legendary and inspiring teacher whose students remember him with awe, admiration and affection. In 2002, his former students at IIT-Kanpur conferred on him the Best Teacher Award. He has guided scores of Masters and Doctoral students who are now leaders in the field of environmental engineering and science. Among his more prominent students was the late Anil Agrawal, the trail-blazing founder of the Centre for Science and Environment, New Delhi.

Dr Agrawal has been deeply committed to supporting rural development initiatives grounded in scientific methodology. Among others, he has helped mentor well-known development activists like Dunu Roy (IIT-Bombay,’67) of The Hazards Centre, New Delhi, Dr Ravi Chopra (IIT-Bombay,’68) of People’s Science Institute, Dehra Doon and Rajendra Singh, a Magsaysay awardee and founder of Tarun Bharat Sangh.

Born in a farming family in Kandhla (Muzaffarnagar district, U.P.) in 1932, he did his schooling locally and graduated in Civil Engineering from the University of Roorkee (now IIT-Roorkee).

He started his career as a Design Engineer in the Irrigation Department, Uttar Pradesh and later obtained a Ph.D. in Environmental Engineering from the University of California at Berkeley. He has dozens of scientific publications to his credit. Dr Agrawal is both deeply religious and rigorously scientific.

His passionate devotion to the River Ganga comes from his strong Hindu faith; his conviction that we are staring at an unprecedented ecological and cultural catastrophe comes from his powerfully logical mind. As a citizen and a patriot, he has made it his life’s mission to recall India to its glorious traditional reverence for nature and to share that wisdom with the “developed” world. His sense of his duty allows him to do no less.