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CURRENT ARTICLES OF V. SUNDARAM (JANUARY 2010 ONWARDS)

Monday, September 6, 2010

DISAPPEARANCE OF GANGA— THE SOUL OF INDIA



V. SUNDARAM I.A.S.

When I am referring to the disappearance of Ganga, I am not referring to the cleaning up of the River Ganga. I am only highlighting the fact that the River Ganga, which has held India’s heart captive for centuries from times immemorial would physically cease to exist as a sacred free-flowing river if the Government of India dos not cancel the massive hydro-electric projects that have been undertaken by the Government of India and the State Government of Uttarakhand between Gangotri and Haridwar. I have been taking this stand rigidly for the last two years.

At long last, transcendental wisdom seems to have dawned on the ever slumbering Government of India. A Group of Union Ministers (GoM) headed by the Union Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee with Union Minister of State for Forests and Environment Jairam Ramesh and Union Minister for Power Sushilkumar Shinde as Members, has decided to call off the NTPC-operated 600-MW LOHARINAG PALA PROJECT on the Bhagirathi River in Uttarakhand on 20th August 2010. Innumerable PEOPLE'S MASS MOVEMENTS like Ganga Ahavaan, many outstanding environmentalists and passionate religious groups have been carrying on a heroic struggle to save the Ganga from total extinction between Gangotri and Haridwar during the last five years. It is also a spiritual victory for Prof. G.D Agarwal who went on a FAST-UNTO-DEATH ON THE 20TH OF JULY to press for the stoppage of the 600-MW LOHARINAG PALA PROJECT on the Bhagirathi River.


The Government of India’s decision on Loharinag Pala Project appears to have been taken keeping in view the environmental concerns as also the religious sentiments of millions regarding the imperative and paramount national need for saving the River Ganga from the savage onslaught of mindless and soulless Hydro-Electric Power Projects being undertaken by both the Union Government and the State Government with total contempt for the environment and the eco-system.


The three-member Union Group of Ministers (GoM) had earlier decided to cancel the proposed 381-MW Bhaironghati and 480-MW Pala Maneri hydroelectric projects being undertaken by the State Government of Uttarakhand on the River Bhagirathi. They were being built by Uttarakhand Jal Vidyut Nigam, a state-owned company. Government of India cited environmental concerns to stall these two State Government sponsored hydro-electric projects.


NTPC-operated 600-MW LOHARINAG PALA PROJECT on the River Bhagirathi has been a bone of contention between the Union Power and Union Environment Ministries, during the last three years. This hydro-electric project was earlier cleared by the GoM largely on the basis of the fact that Rs 600 crore had been spent by NTPC and another Rs 2,000 crore had been sanctioned for the venture. Now that the Union Ministerial Group has decided to drop this project, it is understood that the money spent so far on the project by NTPC will suitably be compensated by the Union Government.


Recently, however, the BJP-ruled Uttarakhand Government wrote to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh asking that the NTPC-run LOHARINAG PALA HYDRO-ELECTRIC PROJECT be stopped for the same environmental reasons as the State Government proposed Bhaironghati and Pala Maneri dams were cancelled by the Government of India.

Citing environmental concerns, Uttarakhand Chief Minister Ramesh Pokhriyal ‘Nishank’ demanded that the NTPC Loharinag Pala Project on the Bhagirathi be shut down as it would DRY UP THE GANGA RIVER FOR A 16-KM PATCH WHEN THE WATERS ARE DIVERTED THROUGH AN UNDERGROUND TUNNEL.


Based on this request for scrapping the NTPC Loharinag Pala Project, the Prime Minister requested the GoM to intervene and find a way out. A technical committee had earlier suggested that Loharinag Pala Project could also be shut down though it would cost the Union Government a few hundred crores in ensuring that incomplete structures do not cause further ecological damage. At last the Union GoM headed by political-heavy weight Pranab Mukherjee has decided to scrap the NTPC Loharinag Pala Project. Thus faced with a determined and sustained activism about the environmental fallout, the Union Government has reversed its position on the hydel power project on the Bhagirathi near Uttarkashi.


IT HAS ALSO BEEN DECIDED BY THE GOVERNMENT OF INDIA TO DECLARE THE 135-KM STRETCH BETWEEN GOMUKH AND UTTARKASHI AS AN ECO-SENSITIVE ZONE UNDER THE ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION ACT.


It is very clear that in a sudden flash of rare sanity the Government of India has decided that the social and environmental costs would far outweigh the financial costs and recommended that the NTPC Loharinag Pala Project on the River Bhagirathi in Uttarakhand be scrapped forthwith. It is a total victory for Prof. G D Agarwal who has gone on fast several times in the past to compel the Government of India and the Uttarakhand State Government scrap several Hydro-Electric Projects between Gangotri and Haridwar.

What has made the Government of India somersault on their earlier decision and to come out with the sudden announcement for scrapping the NTPC Loharinag Pala Project in Uttarakhand? The following is the background for this sudden withdrawal by the Government of India.


On 8th of July 2010, the same GoM gave its green signal for the NTPC Loharinag Pala Project in Uttarakhand.


There was a huge public outcry against this decision of the GoM to restart the Loharinag Pala Project on the River Bhagirathi in Uttarakhand. On 16th July 2010, an emergency meeting was organized in Delhi by Manushi Sangathan, Ganga Ahvaan and Ganga Yamuna Jal Biradri to express their strong protest against the patently illegal decision of the Group of Ministers giving clearance to the Loharinag-Pala dam on the Ganga River on 8th July 2010. The meeting at Delhi was presided over by the Swami Avimukteshwarananda ji, representative of Swami Swaroopanand Saraswati, the Shankaracharya of Dwarka Peeth and Jyorthirmath. Union Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh also joined the meeting for two hours to explain the Government’s stand.


The representatives of Manushi Sangathan, Ganga Ahvaan and Ganga Yamuna Jal Biradri and other environmentalists gave it in writing to the Union Environment Minister that they considered the decision of the GoM to give clearance for the execution of Loharinag Pala Project on the River Bhagirathi in Uttarakhand as illegal and in bad faith for the following reasons:


Save Ganga Meeting presided over by Swami Avimukteshwaranand ji held at CSDS on 16th July 2010
1. The Ministry of Environment has admitted that the Loharinag Pala Project does not merit environmental clearance. In fact, the list of serious violations of basic environmental laws with already visible disastrous consequences is so long that those who went ahead with the Project would deserve stringent punishment if the Government put in place an honest system of evaluation and implementation of its own laws.


1. The Ministry of Environment has admitted that the Loharinag Pala Project does not merit environmental clearance. In fact, the list of serious violations of basic environmental laws with already visible disastrous consequences is so long that those who went ahead with the Project would deserve stringent punishment if the Government put in place an honest system of evaluation and implementation of its own laws.

2. The GoM was appointed by the Prime Minister without the knowledge of the 9 expert members of the National Ganga River Basin Authority (NGRBA). They came to know of its existence only through press reports on July 12 that the GoM had given the project a go ahead. It is not clear whether Dr Manmohan Singh appointed the GoM in his capacity as the Prime Minister or in his capacity as the Chairperson of the NGRBA. In either case, it is a blatant attempt to undermine the authority and credibility of NGRBA. Noted Supreme Court lawyer Mr. MC Mehta who participated in the meeting has confirmed that the GoM has no legal standing and that its decision is a brazen violation of the mandate and authority of the NGRBA.


3. This decision of the GoM is in clear violation of the following commitments made earlier to Dr Agarwal, Manushi Sangathan, Ganga Ahvaan and Ganga Yamuna Jal Biradri and other protesting environmentalist and Hindu religious groups by the Government of India (GoI):

A. The written assurance given by the Ministry of Power to Professor G D Agarwal after his indefinite fast in 2008 that the Government would ensure an environmental flow for Mother Ganga. Professor Aggarwal has already informed the Power Minister that this betrayal by the Government leaves him no choice but to resume his fast unto death from July 20, 2010.

B. The public assurances given by the Minister of State for Environment on February 10, 2010 in Delhi before an All India Ganga Panchayat organized by the Ganga Jalbiradri and Manushi Sangathan comprising of important religious leaders and concerned citizens as well as at Matri Sadan on April 7, 2010 in Haridwar that the aviralta and nirmalta (uninterrupted ecological flow) of river Ganga would be ensured and these destructive dams would be scrapped. This promise had given them hope that the Central Government would put a halt to further destruction of our sacred rivers and the mighty Himalayas.

C. A team of three experts of NGRBA authorized by the Authority to visit the Project sites and prepare a report on the environmental impact of these Projects had given a very adverse report and unanimously recommended as recently as March 2010 that the Loharinag-Pala dam be decommissioned.

D. The decision taken on 8th July by the GoM under the Chairmanship of Mr Pranab Mukherjee to give clearance for the execution of the Loharinag Pala Project can at best be treated as a recommendation because the deciding power actually vests with the National Ganga River Basin Authority (NGRBA), which has not given any such clearance. Unfortunately, the construction company and the contractors involved in the project have taken it is a go-ahead signal to resume work on the dams. It is the responsibility of the Environment Ministry to ensure that the work on these destructive dams should remain suspended till a final decision is taken by the Ganga River Basin Authority.


Mr Jairam Ramesh and Swami Avimukteshwaranand engaged in heated arguments
Against this background, there was an acute sense of betrayal felt by almost all who participated in the well attended meeting in Delhi on 14th July 2010 and the following decisions were taken unanimously at that important meeting of public representatives:
Against this background, there was an acute sense of betrayal felt by almost all who participated in the well attended meeting in Delhi on 14th July 2010 and the following decisions were taken unanimously at that important meeting of public representatives:

1. AN ACTION COMMITTEE WAS CONSTITUTED TO LAUNCH A WIDESPREAD CAMPAIGN TO DEMAND THE SCRAPPING OF THE LOHARINAG PALA DAM. This will be headed by SWAMI AVIMUKTESHWARANAND and comprise of the representatives of the following organizations: Ganga Sewa Abhiyan, Chinmaya Mission, People’s Science Institute, Ganga Ahvaan, Tarun Bharat Sangh, Ganga Jal Biradari, Matri Sadan, Save Ganga Movement, MC Mehta Environmental Foundation, Ganga Yamuna Jal Biradari and Manushi Sangathan.

2. As the authorized representative of the Shankracharya of Dwarka and Jyotirmath, Swami Avimukteshwaranand ji will lead a delegation to meet Dr Manmohan Singh in his capacity as the Chairperson of the NGRBA to lodge a strong protest against the arbitrary and illegal decision of the GoM giving a green signal to Loharinag Pala project which will open the way for the 300 bumper to bumper dams proposed on Ganga and its tributaries.

3. The People’s delegation will demand that either this decision be reversed or the Prime Minister disband the NGRB Authority because this supposedly high powered body has no meaning if its functioning can be sabotaged through underhand means and its authority undermined by ad hoc GoM’s appointed by the PM.

4. A chain of volunteers, including Swami Avimukteshwaranand and Swami Nikhilanand ji of Chinmaya Mission would join one after the other in support of Prof Agarwal’s satyagraha. Ganga devotees in different parts of India would organize satyagarahas in their respective regions to lend strength to Prof Agarwal’s fast.

5. We will demand that NGRBA organize a well planned and well publicized Public Hearing and institute a Public Audit of Loharinag Pala and related power projects in order to facilitate a transparent mechanism for reviewing these projects. This should include widespread participation of villagers directly affected by these projects. This should become a standard procedure for all major power projects.

6. If the Government cannot maintain the sanctity of River Ganga, it should withdraw the special status of ‘National River’ bestowed on the River Ganga so that citizens take their own measures to protect its sanctity instead of depending on the government to do its bit.


Swami Avimukteshwaranand ji presiding over the meeting. Union Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh can be seen seated on his right.


Swami Avimukteshwaran and expressed his disappointment at the GoM’s decision by telling Mr Jairam Ramesh that the latter had failed in his responsibility as the Environment Minister by falling in line with an ecologically disastrous decision which also overlooked the deep religious and spiritual sentiments of millions of Indians who cannot remain as mute witnesses to the destruction of the holy River Ganga.


Leading environmentalist Mr Ravi Chopra spoke for several members of the NGRBA when he expressed his distress before the gathering in the following words: “We feel used by the Government. They call us for meetings only when they need our support. But when we want to discuss something that demands urgent attention, we get no response whatsoever. This manner in which this decision has been arrived at and communicated makes a mockery of the NGRBA headed by Dr Manmohan Singh”


Almost all of those who attended the July 16 meeting felt deeply disappointed by the explanations offered by Mr Jairam Ramesh justifying the GoM decision to go ahead with the execution of Loharinag Pala Project. His main argument was that India with its 1.4 billion strong population needed power from all possible sources for “economic progress and development.” Jairam Ramesh could not answer whether people could survive, leave alone “progress” without water which is what is becoming dangerously scarce as a consequence of mindless destruction of our eco system. The public representatives at the said meeting were also not convinced by Mr Jairam Ramesh’s assertion that there were no viable alternatives to hydro power.


Today, Himalayan villages on the banks of Ganga and its tributaries are water starved because most springs have dried up on account of mindless blasting and bumper to bumper dams being built on the river. Farm animals are dying, fields are being abandoned and people perforce depend on filthy water supplied in dirty drums through tankers for their drinking water needs. Those environmental activists who recently visited the Project site were saddened to see how after being pushed out of agriculture, families in the Himalayas are either migrating to the plains or setting up petty shops selling tobacco masalas, cigarettes, Coca Cola, chewing gums, candy and Pepsi packaged potato chips to visitors in order to eke out a living.


What is worse, the existing power projects are yielding much lower amounts of electricity than promised because the once mighty River Ganga has been reduced to a mere trickle. Mallika Bhanot and Hemant Dhyani pointed out that in response to an RTI filed by Arya Vihar Ashram the Government has admitted that Maneri Bhali Phase 1 power project built with a promise of mere 90 megawatt capacity located 15 kilometers upstream from Uttarkashi is functioning at a mere 40% capacity because of heavy situation during monsoon months and reduced water supply in winter months due to receding glaciers.

How then did the government expect 600 megawatts of power from the Loharinag-Pala project when it is located nearly 60 kilometers upstream from Uttarkashi, especially considering that by the time Ganga reaches Maneri Bhali it has much greater volume of water flow because 13 small tributaries add to its flow?


Dried up Ganga after Maneri BhaliIT WAS THE UNANIMOUS VIEW OF THE GATHERING AT DELHI ON 14TH JULY THAT THESE PROJECTS ARE NOT REALLY MEANT FOR MAKING POWER. THEIR REAL PURPOSE IS TO MAKE MONEY FOR THE BABU-NETA-CONTRACTOR COMBINE. Government was partial to exorbitant hydro projects because they facilitated large scale loot of public money.


The second explanation offered by Jairam Ramesh for reviving the suspended Loharinag Pala Project provoked a very heated exchange. He informed the gathering that the Government could not afford to abandon the Project because Rs 600 crores had already been spent on this Project while an additional Rs 2000 crores had been committed on account of equipment ordered for the project construction. WE ASKED MR RAMESH HOW COULD THE GOVERNMENT ORDER EQUIPMENT WORTH RS 2000 CRORES WHEN IT HAD NOT RECEIVED ENVIRONMENTAL CLEARANCE.

The enraged Prof. G D Agarwal resumed his fast unto death from 20th July 2010.




PUBLIC PROTEST AGAINST LOHRANG PALA DAM AT HARIDWAR 

In a letter sent to Shri Sushil Kumar Shinde, Union Minister for Power on 20th July 2010, Prof. Agarwal said that he had discontinued his earlier fast on February 19, 2009 after receiving an assurance from the Union Power Ministry that work on the Loharinag-Pala barrage would be suspended. Yet the Government of India went back on its decision and had decided to resume construction of the project without consulting him at any point in the past 17 months. “I am deeply hurt by this secretive and mischievous attitude of your Ministry,” wrote Prof. Agarwal. Thus he went on a fast-unto-death to get the hydro-electric project scrapped.


Prof.Agarwal’s fast unto death has evoked widespread emotional public response in all parts of India. Jagatguru Shankaracharya Swami Swaroopanand of Dwarkapeeth has sent his personal emissary Swami Dharanand to convey his support to Prof. G.D. Agarwal’s third fast-unto-death which entered its second day on 22nd July 2010. SWAMI RAMDEV also went and met Dr. Agrawal and offered his full support to his Ganga Bachao Fast Unto Death.

In the second week of August 2010, Prof. Agarwal had made it clear that he would stop even the drinking of water with effect from 25 August 2010 if the Government of India failed to make a clear and categorical announcement to the effect that the NTPC-operated 600-MW LOHARINAG PALA PROJECT on the Bhagirathi River in Uttarakhand will be cancelled forthwith.


As I have mentioned earlier, the Prime Minister requested Pranab Mukherjee to sort out this issue. That is how the Union Group of Ministers headed by Pranab Mukherjee and consisting of Jairam Ramesh and Sushilkumar Shinde met on 20th August 2010 and decided to scrap the 600-MW LOHARINAG PALA PROJECT on the Bhagirathi River in Uttarakhand. Two days later on 22nd August 2010 Jairam Ramesh went to Haridwar to meet Dr Agarwal to announce this decision. Prof. Agarwal insisted upon a written communication from the Union Group of Ministers. Promptly reacting to this request, Pranab Mukherjee sent the following letter to Prof. Agarwal confirming the decisions taken at the meeting of the Union Group of Ministers on 20th August 2010. What is of great significance from the common man’s point of view is that the following letter was personally delivered by Union Minister Jairam Ramesh to the fasting Prof. Agarwal at Haridwar on 24th August 2010 at 7:30 PM.






The Anshan of Prof. G D Agarwal was broken by Jairam Ramesh and Uttarakhand Chief Minister Dr. Ramesh Pokhriyal 'Nishank', at Matri Sadan, Haridwar around 7:30 pm on 24th August 2010. It was his 36th day, witnessed by 500 people. Many revered Hindu spiritual leaders like Swami Shivanand of Matri Sadan, Swami Hansdevacharya, Swami Ravinder Puri, Baba Ramdev, and many other Swamijis were also present when Prof.G.D. Agarwal broke his fast. Prof.G.D. Agarwal has however made it clear to Union Minister Jairam Ramesh that he would completely give up the fast (which means his resuming his cereal food) only when he gets a written communication from the Prime Minister in his official capacity as Chairman of National Ganga River Basin Authority (NGRBA).


I am presenting below summary of my earlier article on this subject written in 2009 which provides the requisite background to the current situation
DISAPPEARANCE OF GANGA— THE SOUL OF INDIA (summary of 2009 article)







Pamphlet of Ganga Ahvaan

Ganga has been the National River of India from the dawn of human civilization. The holy river Ganga is our most affectionate and merciful mother. Like any good mother, Ganga offers herself unconditionally to her children. She is always accessible to any one who comes to her shores for a purifying bath, or even remembers her glories from far away.


MOTHER GANGA

Mother Ganga has been extolled in ecstatic terms in all our scriptures. A verse in Sri Brahma-Vaivarta Purana, Sri Ganga Devi has been described as follows: ‘Sri Ganga Devi has a white complexion. White garments and jeweled ornaments adorn her body. Millions of moons shower their effulgence upon her, whose ever-youthful form smiles eternally. She is the beloved of Lord Vishnu (Krishna) and is forever endowed with fortune. She removes everyone’s sins and her feet grant liberation to all deserving souls. She is able to award one the Lotus Feet of Lord Vishnu, and thus she is known as VISHNU-PADI.’

In the Bhagavath Gita, when describing his glorious manifestations from age to age Lord Krishna declares: ‘Among the water sources, I am the Ganga’. Swami Vivekananda (1863-1902) said: ‘The Gita and the Ganga constitute the Hinduism of the Hindus’

This sacred river Ganga — the river of India — beloved of her people — around which are intermingled her racial memories going back to the Vedic age, her hopes, urges and aspirations — is getting destroyed every moment, every day thanks to the mindless and directionless development programmes being drawn up by the evangelical corrupt anti-Hindu Sonia Congress Italian colonial Government of India in New Delhi and the equally corrupt anti-Hindu pseudo-secular BJP Government in Uttarakhand State.

I have recently received a beautiful 8 page pamphlet published and issued by ‘GANGA AHVAAN’. I have presented the first page of this pamphlet at the top of this article. Ganga Ahvaan means the ‘Call of the Ganga’. Behind this great Ganga Ahvaan movement are four enlightened and fearless public citizens wholly dedicated to the sacred cause of protection of holy river Ganga against the combined onslaught of mindless development initiatives of Uttarakhand State and the evangelical Government of India. They are Priyadarshni Patel, Dr Meena Khilnani, Mallika Bhanot and Hemant Dhyani. Priyadarshni Patel is a social worker. Dr Meeta Khilnani is an Earth Scientist. Mallika Bhanot is a yoga teacher and Hemant Dhyani is a student of Jawaharlal Nehru University doing research in Nano-technology.

Priyadarshini Patel is a resident of Gram Sainj, Uttarkashi. A progressive thinker and an active leader, she is presently the president of Sri Arya Trust, Arya Vihar Ashram, Uttarkashi. For the past 4 years, ever since the dams on the upstream patch of Ganga were introduced, she’s been intensively involved in researching and analyzing the adverse impact of the dams on the Ganga river from Gangotri to Uttarkasi and down below upto Dehradun.. She directed and produced a documentary on the Ganga River called ‘Tripathagamini-a traveller in the three worlds’. Finally under Priyadarshini Patel’s inspiring leadership the GANGA AHVAAN group has been formed. Living in the very area where these projects are coming up she has worked from the grass root level in the valley by creating a platform for all villagers to express their views via Ganga Ahvaan.

Hemant Dhyani, a Garwhali, and a former resident and student of Uttarkashi, is presently a research scholar of Nano Science and Technology in Jawahar Lal Nehru University, Delhi. He has been in the forefront in the GANGA AHVAAN movement organizing meetings, researching on all the aspects of the adverse impact of the hydro projects on the villages of the area and raising levels of awareness in the valley.

Dr Meeta Khillani is the head of Ganga Ahvaan, Jodhpur chapter. She is the one who has raised the voice in the desert and has helped to unite the voice of the people of Rajasthan with the residents of Gangotri valley. In January 2009, she organized Ganga Sammelan with focus on the theme of ‘Save Ganga and Save Heritage’, where scientists, farmers from Uttarkashi and concerned citizens came together to exchange their views. From then on started the movement of GANGA BACHAO in the beginning of this year. Dr Meeta Khillani is a geophysicist by profession and has assisted Priyadarshini Patel in the making of the documentary ‘Tripathagamini’. She is the chief technical brain of the Ganga Ahvaan group.

Mallika Bhanot is the media manager for Ganga Ahvaan. She is a Yoga therapist by profession.

‘GANGA AHVAAN’ in their manifesto have stated that today the Government is in the process of building a cascade of dams along the Ganga, commencing near her source in the pristine Himalayas at GANGOTRI. These projects will join the Tehri Dam and the other dams right upto Haridwar. Thus the entire stretch of the Ganga from Gangotri to Haridwar will get enmeshed and entrapped in a series of dams. This will be clear from the following map of the Ganga catchment area published by ‘GANGA AHVAAN’.

According to the ‘GANGA AHVAAN’ these projects entail sheer destruction of the Himalayas through blasting, drilling and pulling down mountain slopes in the process of building tunnels and power houses. It involves cutting forests, trees, dirtying pristine and untouched portions of our mountains and scarring an entire valley permanently. Finally, since the projects are consecutive it entails pushing the entire Ganga River underground through dark, sunless tunnels with out a break.

PROTEST AT UTTARKASI AGAINST CONSTRUCTION OF DAMS FROM GANGOTRI TO HARIDWAR

According to GANGA AHVAAN, if the Holy Ganga River in the entire stretch from Gangotri to Haridwar is to be saved, then the following projects have to be stopped immediately:

1. Bhairon Ghati I under consideration (just 9km from Gangotri)
2. Bhairon Ghati II under consideration (directly following the above)

3. Loharinag Pala construction started

4. Pala Maneri about to start (directly after the above)









Hence the entire stretch of the Ganga, from Gangotri to Haridwar is, in fact littered with a series of dams


Professor Agarwal

Professor Agarwal, former head of the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering at the Indian Institute of Technology Kanpur, undertook an indefinite fast in June 2008 against the implementation of many environmentally disastrous hydro-electric power projects on the 125 KM stretch of the Ganga River from Gangotri to Uttarkashi. His fast unto death evoked a very popular response leading to wide-spread and massive public protest. This forced the Uttarakhand State Government to review these projects and to stop work at Pala Maneri and Bhairon Ghati (both I & II). The Central Government, however, through National Thermal Power Corporation (NTPC) continued with the work at Loharinag Pala. Unable to tolerate this callous environment-terrorist attitude of the Government of India towards the sacred and merciful Ganga, Professor Agarwal again went on a fast-unto-death for 38 days from 13 January, 2009 to 20 February, 2009. He broke his fast after the Government of India gave him a written assurance to the effect that the Loharinag Pala project would be reviewed by a high-level expert group.

In February 2009, the Government of India announced the setting up of a National Ganga River Basin Authority (NGRBA). The Central Government has decided to give the Ganga the status of a ‘National River’. The NGRBA is an empowered planning, financing monitoring and coordinating authority for the Ganga River under the Environment (Protection) Act, 1986. The Authority will be chaired by the Prime Minister and has as its members, the Chief Ministers of the states through which the Ganga flows viz. Uttarakhand, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Jharkhand and West Bengal. The Ministers of Environment & Forests, Finance, Urban Development, Water Resources, Power, Science & Technology and the Deputy Chairman, Planning Commission will also be Members of NGRBA.

The first meeting of the NGRBA held in New Delhi yesterday (5 October 2009) was presided over by Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh. It was decided at this meeting that no untreated municipal sewage and industrial effluents would be allowed to flow into the Ganga in 2020!!! As far as I can see this is an integral part of the typical procrastinating, ever postponing and never decisive policy of the Government of India. This fraudulent bid to make the Ganga river pollution free by 2020 will also fail in the same grand manner in which the pollution-free Ganga policy announced by Rajiv Gandhi in 1989.

A colossal amount of Rs 960 Crores has been spent so far on the ‘Save Ganga’ project and the Ganga River is no cleaner today than it was two decades ago. What makes people like Dr. Agarwal cynical about any effort by the government to save the river is the performance of the Ganga Action Plan (GAP), the massive river cleaning project approved by the Rajiv Gandhi government in 1985.


Dr. Agarwal describes the GAP as the biggest “official loot of public money” with no accountability fixed. This inference is borne out by a report of the Comptroller and Auditor General of India (CAG) as well as one by the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) of Parliament. The CAG report, dated December 13, 2000, which became the basis for the PAC report, detailed the official loot of public money in clear terms. It categorically said that diversion/misuse of funds to the tune of Rs.36.01 crore by States such as Bihar, Uttar Pradesh and West Bengal had been noticed and that funds had been misused/diverted for unrelated purposes such as the purchase of vehicles, computers and photocopiers and the construction of an office.

The CAG concluded that the action plan, which was launched with the objective of restoring the water quality of the Ganga and its tributaries to bathing level, was not able to achieve its goals despite a total expenditure of Rs.901.71 crore over 15 years.

The PAC headed by Buta Singh, which submitted its report on February 4, 2004, corroborated the CAG’s findings. It said that the government had released Rs.987.88 crore towards the implementation of the plan, and the States had reported an expenditure of Rs.901.71 crore until March 2000.

The PAC report said: “There were heavy shortfalls in the achievement of targets of creation of assets and facilities under the plan. Even those achievements were poor indicators of the extent of success of the GAP scheme as most of them had not functioned either fully or functioned partially for varied reasons. The Ganga Action Plan (GAP) could achieve only 39 per cent of its primary objective of sewage treatment." The PAC censured the States as well as the Centre for the failure of the GAP.

It is also understood that at the NGRBA meeting held yesterday, it was decided to keep the implementation of the four hydro-electric power projects on Ganga River from Gangotri to Uttarkashi — Bhairon Ghati I & II, Loharinag Pala and Pala Maneri — in abeyance for two months till further review.

The World Wild Life Fund (WWF) has reported that the Ganga is one of the ‘Top Ten Rivers at Risk’ world-wide. So are the Himalayas in the ‘Top Twelve Endangered Places on the Earth’. Through the mindless and soulless implementation of the above projects, we as a Nation would be inflicting a disastrous and irreversible damage on both these ETERNAL HOLY ASSETS OF INDIA.


I had earlier described as to how a plethora of ill-conceived and mindless Hydro-electric Power Projects undertaken or planned to be undertaken by the Government of India and the State Government of Uttarakhand are destroying forever the source of the River Ganga, its catchment area in the Himalayan region from Gangotri to Haridwar. Ever since the ‘Sonia’ Congress Government came to power in New Delhi in May 2004, there has been a planned and continuous onslaught on Sanatana Dharma, Hindu Religion, Hindu Society, Hindu Culture and Hindu ethos. A dastardly attempt was made to destroy and obliterate all time honoured and sacred symbols of Hindu religion and culture. On account of country-wide protests by the Hindus of India and on account of the intervention of the Supreme Court of India, the efforts to destroy this ancient symbol of Hindu culture and civilization have been foiled for the present.

Gangotri-the source  of River Ganga

Ram Setu at Rameswaram



‘GANGA AHVAAN’ (call of the Ganga), is a group of a few dedicated and enlightened citizens who are engaged in a non-violent struggle to protect and save the River Ganga against the onslaught of ongoing or planned Development Projects of Government of India and the Uttarakhand State Government in the 125 km stretch of Ganga River from Gangotri to Uttarakhand.

According to Ganga Ahvaan if the implementation of proposed Projects like Bhairon Ghati I (just 9 kms from Gangotri), Bhairon Ghati II (within 15 kms from Gangotri) and Pala Maneri is not immediately stopped and if the ongoing Loharinag Pala Project is not given up once for all in the larger national interest of the very survival of the River Ganga, then this National River of India will dry up and wither away for ever, literally becoming non-existent in the very valley of her origin. The Gangotri glacier, 30.2 Km long, is one of the largest Himalayan glaciers. According to Earth Scientists, this glacier is reported to be retreating rapidly at an alarming rate of 23 m/per year. It has been forecast that by 2030 the Gangotri glacier would disappear forever. Ceaseless mining and tunneling activity through the deployment of heavy machinery in this eco-fragile Himalayan region so very close to the Gangotri glacier is only going to accelerate the pace of retreat of this glacier.







THE FULL GANGA BEFORE MANERI DAM

GANGA AFTER MANERI DAM WAS BUILT

The already existent Maneri Dam I, 15 KM upstream from Uttarkashi, has only succeeded in causing a permanent damage to the quantum and pace of water on the Bhagirathi River. As against an installed capacity of 90 MW, this dam produces barely 40 MW. With this track record of known poor performance it is really surprising to note that the Government of India and the Uttarakhand State Government are planning to have three more projects in addition to Loharinag Pala Project (already taken up and put on hold following wide spread public protests), on the 125 KM stretch on the Ganga River from Gangotri to Uttarkashi. I have no doubt that quite like the abortive Setu Samudram Canal Project these projects on the River Ganga are also going to meet the same ignominious end.


Even the alien British Government in United Provinces in 1917 showed a better understanding of the feelings and sentiments of the people relating to the holy River Ganga than the Italian Congress Government of India today. In 1917, the then British Government came out with a plan to check the flood flow of the River Ganga at Haridwar. The feelings of the Hindus ran high. Pandit Madan Mohan Malaviya(1861-1946), an a handful of public spirited Hindu Kings from the Princely States of India and all the Sankaracharyas joined together and presented a united front to the Government in protest against their proposal to interfere with the flow of the River Ganga at Haridwar. The sensible British Government relented. R Burns ICS, Chief Secretary of the United Provinces passed a Government Order Number 102, dated 20/4/1917 declaring the commitment and assurance of Government ‘to maintain a free flow of the Ganga’.


I am surprised to note that the Union Ministry of Environment in callous disregard of its own environmental norms should have given clearance to the Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) Report to the effect that no monument of historical, religious or archaeological value would get affected by the various hydro-electric power projects in the area between Gangotri and Uttarkashi. I spoke to Dr Agarwal, formerly Head of the Department of Civil Engineering in IIT, Kanpur, now living in Uttarkashi. He has gone on a public fast twice to lodge his protest against the various hydro-electric power projects in this area. He told me in clear and categorical terms that the proposed projects have not taken note of the strategically vital issues of hydraulic feasibility, geological safety, economic viability and environmental impact as per standard scientific methodology.


The almost definite and stark possibility that the River Ganga herself — a shining and transcendental symbol of Hindu culture — might get obliterated from the map for ever and that this would grievously wound the time-honoured religious feelings and emotions of the Hindus of India seems to have been deliberately overlooked by the Union Ministry of Environment. The known anti-Hindu pseudo-secular bureaucrats in that Ministry cannot be expected to have either sacred feelings or emotions or sentiments towards Mother Ganga.

When the Congress Government in collusion with DMK government of Tamilnadu, wanted to destroy the Ram Sethu as an integral part of the Setu Samudram Project, it was Dr Subramanian Swamy who moved the High Court of Madras and the Supreme Court of India and saw to it that the implementation of this disastrous project was kept in abeyance by the Government of India. In the same manner, he has now come forward to assist voluntary groups like the Ganga Ahvaan in their non violent and peaceful struggle to protect and save the Mother Ganga. I am presenting below the copy of the letter he has sent to our Prime Minister on October 3, 2009:

‘Dear Manmohanji,I write this letter in continuation of my earlier letter regarding the Ganga River issue which concerns millions and millions of Hindus. In particular, I am referring not only about the dams on Ganga River at various points from Bhagirathi River stage, BUT ALSO TO DIVERSION OF THE WATERS THROUGH TUNNELS IN SUCH A WAY AS TO MAKE GANGA DISAPPEAR FROM PUBLIC EYE.



As you know, Hindus worship Ganga as a divinity and hold it sacred. Any damage or destruction would invite Section 295 of the IPC and hence the Government cannot commit any illegality if the fundamental character of free flow of the Ganga is damaged, distorted and deformed or otherwise destroyed.



I congratulate you on your decision to set up a National Ganga River Basin Authority. On 5 October, at 10.30 am at 7, Race Course Road, you are holding a meeting of the said Authority.



I am given to understand that Agenda No. 5 is regarding Lohari Nag-Pala Project for considering the rather ill-thought out opinion of the Solicitor General that the Authority may be requested to give its clearance to the said project. I do not know on what basis the Solicitor General decided on recommending clearance but I would like to point out that the same Solicitor General had caused huge embarrassment to you by the affidavit in Rama Setu matter when the Supreme Court was hearing my petition to stay the project. Subsequently the Government had not only to change the affidavit but also change its Counsel, namely, the same Solicitor General.



I am planning to move the Court on this issue since development projects can not be considered sustainable unless it is in harmony with the civilizational values of the society. Therefore, kindly do not give clearance to the Lohari Nag Pala Project or any other projects on Bhagirathi in Uttarakhand.



In this connection it would be appropriate if you invite as a special invitee, or otherwise, some of the sincere NGO groups that are working in Uttarkashi, to depose before the Authority. At present you do not have any experts Authority members, who know the area. I hope therefore that you will not compel me to go back to the Courts, as was the case of Setu Samudaram Project.’

Dr Swamy’s letter to the Prime Minister seems to have had the desired effect. The implementation of Hydro-Electric Power projects (three proposed and one ongoing) on the Gangotri-Uttarkashi stretch of the Ganga River has been put on hold for two months pending further review, at the first meeting of National Ganga River Basin Authority (NGRBA) presided over by the Prime Minister in New Delhi on 5 October, 2009.

To conclude with an evocative poem:


‘Where government injustice becomes greater than we are,
Where its callousness becomes swifter than we are,
Where anti-Hindu government horror becomes stronger than we are,
Help us not to tire.’


1 comment:

Bhatt, Alok said...

Dear Sir,

While I am against construction of large scale dams on Ganga upstream , I would like to take this opportunity to clearly spell out my opposition to people like G D Aggarwals or Priyadarshini Patels of the world as well. These people are not at all concerned with the betterment of people of that region; rather they are modern day "worse than politicians" kind of animals in the garb of social activities. What was G D Agarwal doing when scores of industries were set up along the river Ganga; what did he do to stop the pollution during his times at CPCB.....Why not Priyadarshini Patel lives like an ordinary garhwali or why do she need a swanky ashram and its luxuries to run her agitation......Even Bapu never enjoyed any luxuries while running freedom agitation. Same goes for Sundarlal Bahuguna, who himself was a forest contractor and when he couldn't secure a lucrative forest contract, he turned an environmentalist and made more money alongwith fame than he would have otherwise, as a contractor. Sir, list is endless and I can say this with conviction as I come from Garhwal and know what these guys are doing in the name of "saving the Ganga".......If you want to save Ganga, first clean it downstream.......but for upstream, you would not have anything downstream to pollute....problem with Ganga is not coming more from upstream but from downstream.