Swami Ramdev to head save Ganga mission
Baba Ramdev will spearhead the save Ganga movement. Talking about the mission, he said a nationwide intense movement would have to be launched for the same. He was addressing intellectuals, saints, social workers and political leaders at a meeting at Patanjali Yogapeeth in Haridwar. Expressing solidarity with Prof. Gurudas Aggrawal, the meeting requested Baba Ramdev to spearhead the movement. It demanded that the river be declared national heritage. A decision was also taken to set up a Ganga Raksha Manch and launch a movement. The meeting decided to send memorandums to all state governments besides the Union Government.
Save water and forests
On his way to Uttarkashi to show solidarity with Prof. Aggrawal, Rashtriya Swabhiman Andolan convener and noted thinker Shri K.N. Govindacharya said awareness, understanding and participation is the mantra to solve the environmental problems we face today. ?Efforts must be made to protect jal (water), jangal (forest), zamin (land), janwar (animals) and jan (people) at all cost to ward off threat to our existence,? he said.
He fully supported Aggrawal'sdemand that all developmental works affecting the flow in the stream channel between Gangotri and Uttarkashi must be stopped. Ganga must have an adequate flow and be allowed to flow clean and uninterrupted. The various hydropower projects and barrages planned along Bhagirathi threatened its existence, he warned. ?Who are we to tamper with the river,? he asked. ?We are part of nature, not its conqueror,? he added.
Government favours middle path on hydel projects: Khanduri
Uttarakhand Chief Minister B.C. Khanduri indicated that Government preferred to tread a middle path with regard to hydel projects on the Ganga. He stressed that for him and his party, maintaining the sanctity and purity of the Ganga was a top priority. For him, ?Ganga Sewa? and ?Janata Sewa? were equally important issues. He said he was ready to put power projects on Bhagirathi on hold provided the power needs of the state were taken care of by the Centre. He observed that out of four hydel projects underway on the Bhagirathi between Uttarkashi and Gaumukh, the biggest was the 600 MW Lohari Nagpala, which was being constructed by NHPC. Work was at the advanced stage on the 16 km long tunnel there. Only the Centre was competent to stop the project as considerable amount of money had already been spent. He added that he was willing to speak to the Centre, too, if needed on the issue. The remaining three power projects underway between Uttarkashi and Gomukh were being constructed by the state government and, so far, the tunnelling work had not begun on any of them. These included the 380 MW Bhaironghati project, which would require a four and half km long tunnel and the Pala Maneri project, where the government had spent some money. The final decision in this respect would have to be taken by the Centre, he said, but the state government would cooperate.
He claimed that the smaller hydro power projects were being given priority in place of bigger projects which could have a bigger impact on the environment. He added that his government had decided to prefer Run of the River projects so that the number of displaced people could remain low. He added that Pala Maneri Power Project was also a Run of the River project, which would not require any dam to be constructed.
The battle to ensure natural flow of the river Bhagirathi from Gangotri to Uttarkashi intensified on the day of Ganga Dussehra across the country. The movement is now being widely supported by saints, environmentalists, IITians and the common men as they joined hands to mount pressure on the government.
A scientist turned environmentalist Prof. Gurudas Aggarwal is now at the centre of the movement. He is on a fast unto death in Uttarkashi on the bank of the Bhagirathi. One of his major demands is that the Bhagirathi should be allowed to flow naturally between Gangotri and Uttarkashi. ?Unmindful developmental activities on the Bhagirathi between Gangotri and Uttarkashi should be stopped immediately to allow the river flow naturally,? he said advocating for an autonomous board to look after the arrangements at Gangotri Dham and to keep the sanctity of the Bhagirathi intact.
Expressing their concern over exploitation of the Bhagirathi for various hydropower projects, many saints also have come forward in support of Prof. Aggarwal and his team of river saviours. Swami Shivanand of Matri Sadan (Haridwar) and Shri Gopal Muni went Uttarkashi to bless them while the disciples of Swami Harihar Aditya of Uttarkashi are leaving no stone unturned to mobilise the masses. The VHP also supported the agitation by Prof. Aggrawal at its Kendriya Margdarshak Mandal meeting recently held in Haridwar. The Parishad passed two resolutions at the meeting supporting protection of the holy river.
Noted thinker Shri K.N. Govindacharya also launched a massive campaign to give momentum to the movement. He participated in a puja along with Prof. Aggarwal at the bank of the Bhagirathi in Uttarkashi. Swami Chidanand Muni Saraswati of Parmarth Niketan (Rishikesh) too has shown his solidarity with the movement. ?The government should find a possible way to meet the demand of these saviours of Bhagirathi,? he said elaborating that the Bhagirathi was a symbol of faith for every Hindu and it should be protected.
Meanwhile, leading environmentalists like Shri Sunderlal Bahuguna, Shri Rajendra Singh, Shri M.C. Mehta and Shri Ravi Chopra are camping in Uttarkashi to mobilise the people. On the call of Shri Rajendra Singh the activists of his Jal Biradri staged a dharna on the banks of different rivers across the country on June 13 and kept a day-long fast. ?It is a battle between the faith and the unmindful development and the people should think over it,? said Shri Rajendra Singh. He called upon the masses to send letters to the Prime Minister to support their ?Save Bhagirathi Movement?.
Highlighting the economics of trade being carried out in the name of the Ganga Magsaysay award winner Shri M.C. Mehta said every year traders do roaring business in the name of the Ganga but very few bother to keep it pious. Meanwhile, local residents of Uttarkashi took out a candle march on the day of Ganga Dussehra and organised a public meeting. Priests of the Gangotri temple assured their full support to the movement.
Prof. Aggrawal resolved to save the Ganga on the auspicious day of Ramnavmi (April 14, 2008). From 13 June, the Ganga Dussehra, he began a fast-unto-death. He says, ?I have decided to undergo a fast-unto-death to oppose the destruction of this ecological marvel and the epitome of Hindu cultural faith.?
Prof. Aggrawal was a Member Secretary of the Central Pollution Control Board and Head of the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering at IIT, Kanpur. At the request of Nanaji Deshmukh, he served as a faculty member of the Mahatma Gandhi Rural University at Chitrakoot, where he has been residing for the past 25 years. He is described as being deeply religious and religiously scientific. A devout Hindu, Dr Aggrawal has a deep feeling for the environment and tradition. He has been disturbed by the changes in the name of development and the marginalisation of the Ganga, which holds a special place in the Indian belief system. He feels that the present condition of the Ganga is a severe blow to the faith of the majority of people of the country. He is also a critic of the river-linking scheme of the government.
In his letter to the Chief Minister explaining his fast unto-death he writes, ?The existence of the river Ganga is under severe threat. With a cascade of hydropower projects in its uppermost reaches, the upper parts of the Ganga river system have become dry, as the water is pushed into tunnels. At the Maneri Phase-I project site, water only comes out as leakages from the dam and other release points. While the rest of the Bhagirathi is being diverted into a long tunnel to the power project at Dharasu nearly 40 kms downstream leaving virtually no flow in the river. Water from the Maneri Phase-II is similarly diverted to a tunnel leading upto Dharasu. The stream will only receive water from Ganga, which joins Bhagirathi about 4 kms upstream of Uttarkashi. The Ganga and most of its glaciar tributaries will convert into a series of ponds (reservoirs behind the dams) connected by pipes (tunnels). The original Ganga, with its unique bacteria removal properties, now does not exist below Uttarkashi.?