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Hindu leaders launch massive campaign to save the Ganges

September 10 2008:

Achieving National Heritage Status for The Ganges River is an aim of the "Save the Ganges" Campaign. Photo from shows the course of the Ganges.

The Times of India has reported that a group of 250 spiritual heads representing most of India's religious sects and Hindu organisations launched a campaign in August to “Save the Ganga" river. The first major rally will be held on September 18.

“Awiral Ganga, Nirmal Ganga". meaning"From Gangotri to Ganga Sagar”, aims to clean up the river from its source in the Himalayas to where it drains into the Bay of Bengal at Ganga Sagarby reducing pollution and demanding national heritage status for the river.

It is led by Baba Ramdev - yoga teacher and spiritual leader, whom The Times of London describes as having won "tens of millions of followers through his combination of anti-western diatribe and a cable TV show." Also on the podium is Ravi Shankar, leader of the Art of Living Foundation and former disciple of the late Maharishi, Mahesh Yogi, champion of Transcendental Meditation.

Their umbrella organisation is called Ganga Raksha Manch and its strategy includes:

* penalising polluters,

The source of the River Ganges starts at the Himalayas. Photo of the Himalayan mountains from
* preventing drainage of industrial and domestic effluents in the river,

* opposing the proposed Ganga Express Highway (estimated to displace 600 villages and take up thousands of acres of fertile farmland)

* lobbying for the relocation of industries along the river bank, and

* opposing the further expansion of the Tehri Dam project in Uttarakhand.

According to The Times in London, who also ran a story, public impatience in India is growing over the corruption and political infighting that has beset a government “emergency plan” — begun 23 years ago — to save the river. The scheme has been allotted £300 million to no apparent end.

What Happens Next?

On September 18, pressure groups across the country will organise rallies - marching to the offices of the district collectors and district magistrates to submit charters listing their demands.

On that day, Hindu and sect leaders like Ramdev, Sri Sri Ravi Shankar of the Art of Living Foundation, Asaram Bapu, Murari Bapu and Pranab Pandya, head of the Global Gayatri Parivar, will observe a token fast to protest against the unchecked pollution of the river.

The Ganga Raksha Manch has constituted a Kar Sevak Workers' Committee, which will mobilise the youth in 550 districts across 28 states and seven union territories.

The campaign will also include cleaning up of the Yamuna river and its tributaries. "How can we clean up Ganga without cleaning up the Yamuna first?” campaigner Ashok Singhal told The Times.

“This is not a political campaign. The threat posed by the pollution of Ganga cuts across party lines and we want all political parties to join the campaign,” Baba Ramdev told a packed a press conference in south Delhi last month.

The Raksha Manch is also protesting further construction of the Tehri Dam, because of the threat that it might collapse and threaten the eco-system along the catchment area of the Tehri river, its tributaries and the Ganga, resulting in a natural disaster.


Link here for the full Times of India story.

Link here for a story in The Times.

Link here for a story in Time Magazine in August 2008 about Indian temples claiming carbon credits for installing solar panels.

Link here to learn more about Hinduism and ecology

Link here for the Hindu statement on the environment.

Other Hindu stories

A Balinese environmentalist who has worked with local Hindu leaders to protect tens of thousands of rare turtles every year, received a major international award for his work. Link here for more information.

2003: Surveys conducted by the World Bank in Indonesia revealed that religious leaders were among the most trusted members of society, and that these might be the leaders who can help people remember to care for their environment. Link here for more information.

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