Top environmentalists appeal to govt to save 'Ganga'

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New Delhi, Jun 4 (UNI) Calling for saving the 'holy Ganga', top environmentalists of the country today said unbridled development of dams over the 'living deity' would play havoc with thousands of years of India's heritage and faith of millions, besides usurping the livelihoods of millions.

Speaking at 'Save the Ganga' meet here, noted environmentalist M C Mehta said a people's movement was needed to save Ganga which has symbolised India's cultural heritage and the faith of hundreds and thousands of people -- in life and death.

''We plead to the government to spare a mere 125-km stretch, from Gangotri to Uttarkashi, of the total 2,525 km of the Ganges, from the 'claws of development' so that at least a part of heritage is saved for posterity,'' he added.

Expressing suprise over proposed new dams, specially in the wake of the UN reports of Gangotri glacier melting by 2030, Mr Mehta asked what for were they being made when there would be no water to feed them? ''Not just were rare species of flora and fauna dying due to indiscriminate exploitation of the Himalayan region, but the very ecology was being disturbed with this 'type of development','' he underlined.

Magsaysay award winner Rajendra Singh, also a well-known environmentalist, said millions of fishermen and boatmen earned their livelihoods from the 'Ganga' and all through the gangetic plain millions of farmers feed the nation.

''If the very river dries up or is 'tamed', all these would be left unemployed. Is it worth killing a national heritage for a few kilowatts of power in the name of development?'' Terming the development works on the ganges 'strangling of nature, society and state', he said, ''If the Ganga is saved, it will lead to a movement all over the country to save the other 144 rivers resently on the verge of extinction.'' Sunita Narain of the Centre for Science and Environment while rueing the fact that despite rampant violations, no one had till date been imprisoned for breaking environment rules, said Ganga could not be equated with any other river of the country.

''Its 'death' was the death of a national heritage.'' If people join hands, the largescale exploitation could be stopped, she said adding such a development where losses were more than gains tantamounted to murdering of the river.

UNI AN ATI AS1859

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