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Posted at: Oct 12, 2018, 2:07 AM; last updated: Oct 12, 2018, 6:43 PM (IST)

Ganga campaigner dies, for the river

On a fast for 112 days to draw attention to river’s plight, GD Agarwal passes away at 86

IIT professor on a mission till the end

  • IIT professor GD Agarwal first made headlines when he sat on an indefinite fast, seeking uninterrupted flow between Gangotri and Uttarkashi
  • It resulted in suspension of Loharinag-Pala Hydropower Project in 2009
  • PhD in environmental engg from Berkeley, Agarwal served as member-secretary of Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB), where he helped shape India’s pollution control regulatory structure
  • He also remained a memberof several government committees on environmental issues
Ganga campaigner dies, for the river
Environmentalist G D Agarwal being forcibly taken to the hospital after his health deteriorated in Haridwar. PTI

Vibha Sharma
Tribune News Service
New Delhi, October 11 

Leading environmentalist Swami Gyan Swaroop Sanand (Prof GD Agarwal) has passed away. 

The IIT professor, seer and Ganga campaigner had been on an indefinite fast in his Matri Sadan ashram in Haridwar since June 22 to draw the attention of “fellow Gangaputra” Prime Minister Narendra Modi towards the plight of the Ganga.

He had been demanding a law to protect the holy river, maintain its uninterrupted flow in natural form between Gangotri and Uttarkashi and to keep it clean — ‘aviral’ and ‘nirmal’. He had written to PM Modi saying that like him, he too was a “Gangaputra” and was determined to carry his fast till the end.

Reports said the 86-year-old suffered a heart attack. However, one of his closest associates — Magsaysay Award winner and “waterman” Rajendra Singh — said Agarwal died of “heartbreak, of anguish over the Ganga deteriorating from bad to worse, his pleas being ignored and hurt over the e-flow notification by the Ministry of Water Resources, River Development and Ganga Rejuvenation on Wednesday”.

“It hurt him when Union Minister Nitin Gadkari said 80 per cent of his (Agarwal’s) demands had been met. On Thursday morning, he asked me to go to Delhi and expose Gadkari’s lies by holding a press conference. Unfortunately, he passed away before I could do that,” Rajendra Singh said over the phone.

While issuing the notification for environmental flows (e-flows) of the Ganga with an aim to maintain the natural pattern of the river flow, Gadkari had said that it had satisfied the maximum demands of Agarwal.

Without food for 112 days, Agarwal had been planning to also give up water. “I will have no regrets even if I die in the course of saving the Ganga. The end of my life will not mean the end of efforts being undertaken to save the river” were some of his last words.

Rajendra Singh said Agarwal’s efforts to save the Ganga would be kept alive and with greater vigour.  “We will hold consultations. It is expected Swami Shivanand Saraswati will take over from him. His (Agarwal’s) passing away is a big setback. He was weak but he was talking. Now, all of a sudden, he has left us. Yesterday night, the administration picked him up and sent him to AIIMS, Rishikesh.

“When I spoke to him, he said the Centre had failed him. Therefore, he would not give up his fast. Doctors say he died of heart attack, but in reality, he died of heartbreak. Prime Minister Modi had promised a clean Ganga in 2014. 

“Today, Ganga is in its worst state, worse than it was in 2014. What also hurt him was that no one from the Centre (minister) tried to reach out to him while he was fasting,” said Rajendra Singh. Several prominent activists had also written to Prime Minister Modi to “save his life”.

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