250 religious heads flag off save Ganga campaign in Delhi

August 17th, 2008 - 7:02 pm ICT by IANS  

New Delhi, Aug 17 (IANS) A group of 250 spiritual heads representing most of the religious sects and Hindu organisations across India Sunday launched the “Save the Ganga campaign” in the capital. The campaign, “Awiral Ganga, Nirmal Ganga: From Gangotri to Ganga Sagar”, aims to clean up the river right from its source in the Himalayas to where it drains into the Bay of Bengal at Ganga Sagar in West Bengal by reducing pollution and demanding national heritage status for the river.

The agenda of the umbrella organisation Ganga Raksha Manch includes penalising polluters, preventing drainage of industrial and domestic effluents in the river, opposing the proposed Ganga Express Highway by the Uttar Pradesh government, lobbying for the relocation of industries along the river bank, and opposing the further expansion of the Tehri Dam project in Uttarakhand.

The 250-member Marg Darshak Mandal, or the advisory committee comprising the religious leaders, will advise the Ganga Raksha Manch on how to make the campaign effective.

Senior Vishwa Hindu Parishad leader Ashok Singhal and yoga guru Baba Ramdev are at the helm of the committee.

As part of the campaign, pressure groups across the country will organise rallies September 18 and march to the offices of the district collectors and district magistrate to submit charters listing the demands of the Ganga Raksha Manch.

Seers like Ramdev, Sri Sri Ravi Shankar of the Art of Living Foundation, Asaram Bapu, Murari Bapu and Pranab Pandya, head of the Global Gayatri Parivar, will observe a token fast for a day September 18 to protest the unchecked pollution of the river and press for steps for clean Ganga.

The Ganga Raksha Manch has constituted a Kar Sevak (workers’) committee, which will mobilise the youth in 550 districts across 28 states and seven union territories to implement the Ganga action plan on the ground in a phased manner.

“The campaign will also include cleaning up of the Yamuna river and its tributaries. How can we clean up Ganga without cleaning up the Yamuna first?” VHP leader Ashok Singhal said to IANS when asked if plans included cleaning up of Yamuna river as well.

“This is a not a political campaign. The threat posed by the pollution of Ganga cuts across party lines and we want all political parties to join the campaign,” Baba Ramdev told a packed a press conference Sunday at the Pahari Gurudwara in south Delhi, where the spiritual heads congregated to flag off the new Ganga action drive.

The Raksha Manch is also protesting further construction of the Tehri Dam. Sounding a note of caution, Ramdev said: “The dam will collapse one of these days and the entire eco-system along the catchment area of the Tehri river, its tributaries and the Ganga will be jeopardised, resulting in a natural disaster.”

The Ganga Raksha Manch said the proposed Ganga Express Highway in Uttar Pradesh would take away nearly 155,293 acres of fertile farmland and displace 600 villages along the route.

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