Monday, August 3, 2009

Mail from Sr. Ravi Chopra, Peoples' Science Institute

Dear All:
I am writing to inform you of Dr. G.D. Agrawal’s recent decision to sit on a fast-unto-death for a third time within 15 months to ensure that the river Bhagirathi is allowed to flow in its natural form between Gangotri and Uttarkashi. (See attachment 1 for an update) 
I am sure that you are keen to save the Ganga and Dr. Agrawal’s life. Sometimes we lose heart even before we begin the fight, thinking that we cannot make an impact. But look at what GD’s fasts and our efforts have forced the governments to do so far:
• The GoI has notified Ganga as India’s National River. We should now demand that its pristine Gaumukh-Gangotri-Uttarkashi stretch be declared as a Protected Zone where the river flows in its natural form.  This is similar to the concept of declaring all the tiger (India’s National Animal) habitats as Protected Areas (National Parks or Sanctuaries). Killing or mutilating tigers is a punishable offence. Similarly, disturbing the pristine character of the Bhagirathi should also be a punishable offence.
• The GoI has accepted the concept of releasing environmental flows downstream of dams on the Bhagirathi to sustain its ecology and societal needs.  This can be a major precedent for all Indian rivers.  
• In a letter to Dr. Agrawal dated February 5, 2009 the Union Ministry of Power wrote, “The Govt of India confirmed that no further hydro projects shall be undertaken on river Bhagirathi.” (This statement, however, is ambiguous. It is not clear whether it also includes the still to be built/completed Bhairon Ghati, Loharinag-Pala and Pala-Maneri projects).
• Even as I write to you talks are going on at the highest level to get Dr. Agrawal to call off the fast.
It is clear, therefore, that we can make our protests count!
I urge you to express your support for them as strongly as you can.  You can do the following activities:      
• Forward this email and the attachments to as many people as possible and raise awareness on this issue.
• We have attached a list of addresses of prominent persons to whom you could write a letter and demand some action to be taken
  on this issue.(See attachment 3). You may excerpt material from the attachment 1 and 2
• Certainly send such mails to MPs and the newsmedia.  
• Organize at least a symbolic fast in support of GD, even if it is for a day, in your area and involve as many people as possible.
  Don’t forget to inform the media. We must let the governments know that there is widespread support for the Ganga and Dr. Agrawal’s protest.  
• Write to Dr. Agrawal personally in a show of support or meet him if you can.
• If you do any of the above, please keep us informed.
Ravi Chopra
Peoples' Science Institute
252/I Vasant Vihar, Dehra Doon 248006
Uttarakhand. INDIA

phone: +91 135 2773849; 2763649
fax: +91 135 2763186, 2762516

No comments:

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.