Thursday, May 22, 2008

Public Meeting in Delhi, 4th June 2008



Venue: Gandhi Peace Foundation Hall, near ITO, New Delhi
on Wednesday 4 June 2008 at 3 pm

The Ganges has been sacred to Indians since time immemorial. This is no ordinary river. Most Indians revere the Ganges as a mother. Its water is widely believed to possess unique properties. Most Indian homes will have a bottle of “Ganga Jal” as it is believed that this water will not get stale. Use of Ganga Jal is common place as part of almost every important puja / ritual performed by a Hindu. Every Hindu craves for a few drops of “Ganga Jal” as he/she dies for we believe it will help us achieve “Moksha.” These are matters of faith. They are part of folklore and wisdom handed down by our fore-fathers. They are at the core of Indian ethos and culture.

Part of this folklore mandates that the Ganga be allowed to flow unfettered. In 1916 when the British planned to build a barrage blocking the flow near Haridwar a popular mass movement spearheaded by Shri Madan Mohan Malviya forced the British to modify their plans and enter into a written agreement committing that the flow of the Ganges will not be blocked completely. The agreement finds mention in the Constitution of India.

Today the very existence of the Ganges is threatened by multiple barrages and Hydro-electric projects planned along its Himalayan stretch - the Bhagirathi. First the Tehri Dam and Maneri Bhali were built. Next a series of dams are being built between the Gangotri glacier and Uttarkashi. At these sites water shall be stored, then released periodically through tunnels, at suitable locations where power houses will be built, back into the stream channel. The same is repeated again (and again) further downstream. The result will be that in long stretches and over considerable period of time, there shall be no flow in the channel. THE GANGA WOULD RUN DRY. Commonsense indicates that such an extensive tampering of a natural eco-system is bound to adversely affect its ecology and very nature. Yet a series of projects (see map enclosed) are being planned and actively pursued unmindful of the serious damage they are bound to cause. If these projects are allowed to come up the GANGES as Indians have known it for centuries will cease to exist and will be replaced by a series of reservoirs upstream of respective Hydro-electric projects.

To discuss the options available and to firm up public opinion on this matter of national importance a public meeting is planned at the venue mentioned above.

All are welcome there is no registration fee.

1 comment:

Amit Srivastava said...

Tt seems as if the most important reasons to oppose the construction are the sacred hindu beliefs associated with the river Ganges. For me hinduism is not about being stuck to the lines my forefathers told me. It is all about reasoning and welfare of the humanity. We should always be ready for the betterment of the society.

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.