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Environmnetalist, activist and former IIT professor GD Agarwal, on indefinite fast since June 22 demanding the government to clean river Ganga, passed away in AIIMS Rishikesh today, Thursday, October 11.

Agarwal had given up drinking water two days ago, on October 9, and was in a hospital in Rishikesh. He breathed his last at around 1:30 pm. Doctors said he died of a heart attack, according to media reports.

Before his death, he wrote a letter alleging that the Haridwar administration officials forcibly shifted him from his protest site to AIIMS.

For several years, Agarwal had been demanding that steps be taken to make the Ganga ‘aviral’ (free flowing). He wanted 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.

When his demands were not heard by the government, Agarwal began a fast unto death on June 22. On October 9 he gave up water.

The Uttarakhand government on October 10 forcibly moved Agarwal to AIIMS Rishikesh where tests revealed shortage of potassium and increased levels of dehydration. Early this morning, Agarwal was informed that he will be moved to AIIMS, Delhi, reported The Wire, though he didn’t want to go.

Agarwal had served as a member of the Indian Central Pollution Control Board before embracing the life of an ascetic. Agarwal sat on numerous protests to stop construction of projects on Ganga.

He had previously too held fasts for the protection of rivers. His fast in 2009 had led to the construction of a dam on river Bhagirathi being stopped.

No meaningful or effective action has been taken to clean Ganga. A parliamentary estimates committee concluded that the government’s efforts to rejuvenate the Ganga 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.

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