Friday, June 5, 2009

Gahmar declaration 2009

Gahmar, in Ghazipur District Uttar Pradesh was chosen as the venue for the Ganga Convention because it is mid-way from its source Gomukh to Gangasagar, where she flows into the Bay of Bengal. The various issues, problems and opinions that were discussed and deliberated upon at the Two-day Convention have been summarised thus, in this Declaration.  
    1. On Ganga Dussera (2nd June 2009), Gangotsav was celebrated with great enthusiasm and fervour at this village. The Jal Biradari resolves to celebrate this day as an annual River Day Utsav, to commemorate all rivers across the country. 
    2. After declaring Ganga as the National River and setting up of the Ganga River Basin Authority, it is the duty of the civil society to take up this responsibility and support the Government. Keeping this in mind, the Ganga Jal Biradari is the people’s arm, for the cause. 
    3. The Ganga Jal Biradari shall be a National Level association, but its basic functioning unit shall be at the Gram Panchayat level. 
    4. The structural functioning at the Gram Panchayat level has been categorised according to the geo-cultural diversity of the region. The Ganga Jal Biradari of every region shall work locally for those issues which are of primary importance in that region, and collectively towards protection and conservation of the Ganga.
    They are:            i.Himalayan Region (Gomukh to Haridwar)
        ii.Tarai Region (Haridwar to Hardoi)
        iii.Central Ganga plain
        iv.Ganga Flood Plain
        v. Farakka
        vi. Howrah -Kolkata
        vii. Gangasagar 
    5. The first Gram Panchayat level Ganga Jal Biradari has been constituted in Gahmar with immediate effect.  
    6. It is resolved to develop the Gahmar unit as a role model for all villages to contribute towards Ganga’s restoration. 
    7. The Gahmar unit will address the Ganga’s main problems of soil erosion, pollution and over-exploitation, and show the way for all villages to deal with local problems of waste management, water crisis and erosion at the village level. 
    8. The Ganga Janadesh, constituting the people’s mandate for resolving Ganga’s problems was finalised. It was proposed to conduct a series of Ganga yatras in the coming times to give effect to the 27-point plan (see Attachment) and bring about awareness amongst the community, Government authorities and public representatives.
    9. Each region shall investigate and identify the local factors causing problems related to the Ganga. Solutions shall then be devised keeping in mind the geo-cultural diversity of that particular region. 
    10. This Convention rejects outright the proposed ‘Inter-linking of Rivers’ Project of the Government of India as being violative of the Laws of Nature. Instead of artificially linking our rivers the Convention strongly advocates to link the people with the rivers. A campaign will be initiated to prohibit any man-made linking of rivers. The Government also has to follow these principles. Only then will it be possible to work in unison with the all the other stakeholders for restoring the Ganga to its earlier pristine purity and sanctity. 

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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.