Yoga guru Ramdev joins war to save Ganga

June 29th, 2008 - 8:14 pm ICT by IANS  

New Delhi, June 29 (IANS) The river Ganga, along whose banks the Indian civilisation evolved, has found a new messiah to purge it of the accumulated filth and breathe new life into its shrinking course. Yoga guru Ramdev, along with a clutch of spiritual seers across the country, is the latest to join the ranks of the river crusaders who are waging a battle against the industry and development lobbies across the country and reluctant state machineries to save India’s dying rivers.

The seer, who was in the capital prior to his 45-day tour of the US, UK and Canada, told the media Sunday that he is at the forefront of a group, the Ganga Raksha Manch, set up by spiritual heads in Hardwar to press the government to declare the endangered river a national heritage.

The Ganga Raksha Manch comprises spiritual leaders like Sri Sri Ravishankar of the Art of Living, Murari Bapu, Asaram Bapu, Ramesh Bhai Ojha and the heads of the Shankaracharya hermitages across the country.

It also has representatives from the Vishwa Hindu Parishad, Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, All-India Akhara Parishad, Gayatri Parivar Shantikunj, Sant Nirankari Samagam, Arya Samaj, Shri Jain Acharya Muni hermitage and Ramakrishna Mission.

Ramdev is the convenor of the organisation. Besides, the umbrella has also brought in researchers, environmentalists and scientists in its fold to deal with the technicalities of conservation. The campaign will be spread across five states of Uttarakhand, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Jharkhand and Bengal.

The 2,500-km river is a sacred stream, associated with Indian mythology and ancient civilisations down the ages. In most parts of the country, it is worshipped as an avatar of the mother goddess - “Ganga Maiyya”.

According to the seer, the save Ganga mission is part of the clean India campaign, which the spiritual groups across the country have been advocating for a long time.

“We want the government to declare the Ganga as a national heritage because it is already identified as a world heritage by the UNESCO. But the government is yet to accord it heritage status. The river is choking in filth.

“Effluents from all the cities and industries drain into the river unchecked and it affects the lives of nearly 500 million people living along its banks. Almost one crore people still bathe in the river every day. The river is almost like a dirty sewage channel. A heritage status would ensure adequate protection,” the spiritualist said.
According to Ramdev, the Ganga Raksha Manch has divided the river into seven zones from Gangotri, the glacier from where the river originates, to Ganga Sagar, where the river drains into the sea, to implement the plan. “We will personally mobilise people living in the cities and villages along the river from July to press heritage status for the river.

“Besides, we are also opposing the proposed Ganga Express highway and are demanding penalty for those who pollute the river. If the government refuses to concede our demands, then we will launch a mass movement from September 18,” the seer said. The agitation, slated to take off from Kanpur (where the pollution level is one of the highest), will be peaceful, Ramdev assured.

A recent study by the Uttarakhand Environment Conservation and Pollution Board says the level of pollution in the river has reached alarming proportions. The coliform (bacteria) level in the water, which should be below 50 fecal colonies for drinking purposes, 500 colonies for bathing and 5,000 colonies for agricultural use, has reached 5,500 in Hardwar alone.

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