Environment

On a ‘Fast Unto Death’ to Save the Ganga, 86-Year-Old G.D. Agrawal Also Gives up Water

The environmentalist, who has been on a fast in Haridwar since June 22 has discontinued drinking water mixed with honey in his bid to get the government to act to rejuvenate the Ganga.

New Delhi: G.D. Agarwal, a former faculty member at the Indian Institute of Technology, Kanpur, on Tuesday gave up drinking water in his bid to urge the government to act on saving the Ganga. Agarwal has been on a ‘fast unto death’ in Haridwar since June 22. He has now discontinued his only intake during the day – water mixed with honey.

Agarwal has been demanding that steps be taken to make the Ganga ‘aviral’ (free flowing). He wants the government to stop the construction of all hydroelectric projects along the tributaries of the Ganga and the enactment of the Ganga Protection Management Act.

“If the draft is enacted by parliament, most of the problems of Gangaji would be resolved for a long time. The present government can use their brut majority and whip it. I will break my fast the day it is passed. This is my last responsibility. If they are able to get it passed before the draft passed in the next session, then good. If not… many people die unhappy. It’s time for the future generation to take responsibility for the holy river,” Agarwal had told the New Indian Express in July.

Agarwal has written a number of letters to several ministers who have been in charge of rejuvenating the Ganga and to Prime Minister Narendra Modi. But, not much has been achieved.

“We have sent several request letters to the Prime minister and water resources ministry but nobody has bothered to reply. I have been on fast for past 109 days and now I have decided to take my tapasya forward and sacrifice my life for the Ganga river. My fast will finish with my death,” Agarwal told the Times of India.

Prime Minister Modi had pledged in 2014, on the banks of the Ganga in Varanasi, that he would ensure that the Ganga would be cleaned up by 2019. However, several reports have shown that no significant action has been taken to clean the river. A parliamentary estimates committee which evaluated the government’s efforts to rejuvenate the Ganga concluded that the government’s actions have been far from enough.

“The scenario clearly indicates the sorry state of affairs with regard to the implementation of the programmes relating to sewer projects/works in various States, meant for treatment of sewage and thereby addressing to the issue of dumping of sewage in the water bodies,” the report said.

A performance audit by the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) also found deficiencies and shortfalls.

“National Mission for Clean Ganga could not finalise the long-term action plans even after more than six and half years of signing of agreement with the consortium of Indian Institutes of Technology. As a result, National Mission for Clean Ganga does not have a river basin management plan even after a lapse of more than eight years of National Ganga River Basin Authority notification,” the CAG report said.