Friday, June 20, 2008

Dr. G.D. Agarwal thwarts Government emissary

Bhagirathi Bachao Sankalp

Under the Banner of Indian Council for Enviro Legal Action (ICELA)

Kuriyal Bhawan, Bhairav Chowk, Uttarkashi, Uttarakhand

Telefax: 01374-222937,, Website:

For Immediate Press Release

June 20, 2008 DehraDoon/Uttarkashi

Dr. G.D. Agarwal thwarts Government emissary

Dr. G.D. Agrawal today told State Power Secretary Shatrughan Singh that even though the Government's recent decision to suspend work on two major power projects in the Bhagirathi valley was a welcome step in the right direction, he would not end his fast-unto-death until his demand of maintaining an unaffected flow of the river Bhagirathi between Gangotri and Dharasu, was acceded to by the Government.

In the morning, the Power Secretary Shatrughan Singh called on Dr. Agrawal and handed him an official letter containing decisions taken by the State Cabinet in a meeting held on June 19, 2008. During the talks, the Power Secretary urged Dr. Agrawal to end his fast-unto-death. Dr. Agrawal responded that the Government's decision to suspend work on two power projects namely 480 MW Pala-Maneri and 381 MW Bhairon Ghati projects was welcome but it did not fulfill his demand. “Dr. Agrawal also rejected all requests from the visiting Government emissary to end his fast-unto-death and said that more was required to be done to maintain an unobstructed flow of the River Bhagirathi in its 125 km stretch between Gangotri and Dharasu” said Shri Rajendra Singh, “Waterman” and Magsaysay award winner. Shri Singh has been camping in Uttarkashi in support of Dr. Agrawal’s fast-unto-death.

In a major development, Jagadguru Shakaracharya Swami Swarupananda Saraswati today arrived at Uttarkashi's Manikarnika Ghat and met Dr. Agrawal to extend his full support to the campaign. Yesterday, the Shankaracharya has sent letters to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and UPA Chairperson Ms. Sonia Gandhi in support of Dr. Agrawal's campaign to save the river Bhagirathi.

Meanwhile, Dr. Agrawal's fast-unto-death in support of his demand continued for the eighth day today. Already, doctors have reported Dr. Agrawal's failing health condition. Yesterday, they had also collected his urine samples for examination and recommended kidney and liver tests.

Contact Persons:

Anil Gautam (Uttarkashi) 9412176896 (M)

Pavitra Singh (Uttarkshi) 9410706109 (M), 01374-222937 (O)

Ayan Biswas (Dehra Doon) 9411787232 (M)

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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.