A day before Ganga activist Prof G D Agarwal breathed his last while on a fast-unto-death for the cause of the river’s conservation, the Centre notified the minimum environmental flow for Ganga.
Water Resources Minister Nitin Gadkari Wednesday said the notification was keeping with the government’s commitment towards an ‘aviral’ and ‘nirmal’ Ganga. While responding to a question, the minister specifically referred to Agarwal, saying he should give up his fast as some of his demands had been met. Agarwal, however, was “very unhappy” and “dissatisfied” with the notification, Ravi Chopra, who Agarwal had mentored, told The Indian Express.
Agarwal, he said, was upset on two counts — the notification put down e-flow rates which were not based on any scientific study, and it only extended up to Unnao in Uttar Pradesh. “He was upset that the rest of the river was forgotten. Was Gadkari only paying attention to the stretch that will benefit his inland waterways projects?” Chopra asked.
This was Agarwal’s sixth fast for the cause of the river. In 2009, work on Loharing Pala Hydropower Project had stopped as the condition of Agarwal, then on the 38th day of fast, deteriorated. Chopra said he met Agarwal in the early-80s and the two worked closely when the activist began his campaign for Ganga protection in 2008. “We travelled extensively and I learnt a lot about the science of environmental flows. He taught me about the enormous self-purifying capacity of the river,” Chopra said.
Many The Indian Express spoke to fondly remembered ‘GD’ as a “honest, simple and down to earth man”.
Manoj Misra, who has fought to save the Yamuna in Delhi, said Agarwal’s death was a national loss. “He was stubborn and this time he was on a mission to sacrifice, and he did.”
Read | Who was activist GD Agarwal?
Former Union Environment Minister and Congress leader Jairam Ramesh said he met Agarwal several times in 2009-2011. “He was an indefatigable crusader not only for Nirmal Ganga but also for Aviral Ganga. It was my privilege and good fortune to be able to implement some of his important suggestions to ensure uninterrupted flow in the holy Ganga and its tributaries in Uttarakhand,” he said.