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Green activist ends fast after government accepts demands

Delhi,Environment/Wildlife, Fri, 23 Mar 2012 IANS

New Delhi, March 23 (IANS) Environmentalist G.D. Agarwal, 80, who was on a fast-unto-death since Jan 15 to save the Ganga river, Friday ended his fast after the government agreed to call a meeting of the National Ganga River Basin Authority (NGRBA), a central government constituted body for cleaning the Ganga, on April 17.


Agarwal, a former Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) professor and member of Ganga Sewa Abhiyan, broke the fast after drinking juice at the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS), where he was shifted Monday from Varanasi in Uttar Pradesh after his condition deteriorated.


"I will only take liquid diet till any concrete decisions are taken to save the Ganga. The government has called a meeting of the NGRBA on April 17 and I don't know what will happen. I will only consume food after some concrete decisions to ensure uninterrupted water flow and purity are taken," Agarwal told reporters.


Agarwal said he doesn't have much time and won't live long so the government should take measures to clean the Ganga before the January 2013 Allahabad Kumbh.


"How can the government commit to save the Ganga till it allows mining, construction of dams and flowing of drainage water in the river" Agarwal asked.


Agarwal had stopped taking even water from March 9.


Union Coal Minister Sriprakash Jaiswal and Minister of State in the Prime Minister's Office V. Narayanasamy met the activist Friday at the AIIMS and assured him that government is ready to accept his demands.


"The government has agreed to the demands of Agarwal and has called a meeting of NGRBA on April 17. He has been invited as a special invitee to attend the meeting. The agenda as proposed by the Ganga Sewa Abhiyan will be the agenda of NGRBA meeting and shall be placed for discussion," Jaiswal told reporters.


"We take the opportunity to assure him that main issues related to Ganga have been verbally several times told to various authorities and concerned agencies. We do request him in the interest of nation and Ganga, to call off his fast," the minister said.


He said the union government understands the importance of the Ganga and will explore all measures to ensure its uninterrupted flow, purity and sanctity of Ganga.


Agarwal is unhappy over the "unsatisfactory and ineffective functioning" of the NGRBA. The authority has only met twice since it was constituted in 2009.


Besides, Agarwal is against ongoing construction of dams/barrages/tunnels on Ganga which he says would totally destroy the natural flow and quality of the river water; the "total failure" of regulatory agencies in controlling discharge of urban and industrial wastes into the Ganga and "complete lack of sensitivity" of the government on these issues.


Rajendra Singh resigned as the chairman NGRBA last week over "government's insensitivity towards Agarwal and gross negligence towards worsening state of the holy river".


Two other members of the NGRBA have also resigned over the issue. "We haven't heard anything from the government since we sent our resignation," said Singh.


Agarwal has served as secretary of the Central Pollution Control Board, the country's premier anti-pollution body, and helped put together environmental legislation in India. This is his third fast-unto-death in the last four years.


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