He uses hunger, silence to save Ganga from dams

June 14th, 2008 - 7:49 pm ICT by IANS  

Lucknow, June 14 (IANS) G.D. Agarwal, an environmentalist who has taken a vow of silence and is on a hunger strike in Uttarakhand to object to dams being built on the Ganga, is adamant not to end his protest till the prime minister gives in writing that no dam will be built on the river. Agarwal, 76, began his protest at Manikanika Ghat in Uttarkashi Friday after his attempts in the past few years to prevent concrete structures from being built on the river failed.

The former Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) professor does not want dams to be built in a 100 km stretch between Gangotri, the source of the river, and Uttarkashi since he believes that restricting the river’s natural flow will lead to an environmental disaster.

“He will break his fast and silence only if the prime minister gives a written promise that no new dams would be erected on the river,” water conservationist Rajendra Singh, accompanying Agarwal in his protest, told IANS.

Agarwal has served as a secretary of the Central Pollution Control Board, the country’s premier anti-pollution body, and helped put together environmental legislation in India.

Ravi Chopra, director of the Dehradun-based People’s Science Institute that Agarwal is currently chairing, told IANS that as many as six new dams were being built on the 100 km stretch and three of them would generate hydro electricity of approximately 1,500 mega watts (MW).

Rajendra Singh said: “The people in the region don’t require the six dams, which will adversely affect the ecology. The dams will only increase the government’s revenue through the sale of the electricity generated.”

Chopra said there were already around 30 existing dams on the river and the government envisaged around 200 more dams on the Ganga and its tributaries in Uttarakhand alone.

“They expect to generate 25,000 MW power from these dams, but such plans will have adverse social, ecological and economical impact on the local population,” he added.

He said Agarwal strongly believed that “Ganga is not like any other river. It is the mother of all rivers in India. Besides the environmental effects of restricting its flows, there would be an impact on an entire cultural civilisation built around the holy river”.

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