Politics over hydro projects on tributaries of river Ganga is heating up with former Indian Institute of Technology professor G D Aggarwal sitting on a fast-unto-death demanding scrapping of eight projects on these rivers.
Environment ministry has already decided that no new projects would be approved on tributaries --- Mandakani, Alakananda, Bhagirathi and Aasi Ganga --- but the activists having support of various Hindu groups have demanded scrapping all on-going projects.
Hydro-projects on river Ganga had been a sensitive political issue in the Himalayan state going to polls on January 30. Both Congress and BJP have opposed hydro projects in the upper Ganga basin but refused to scrap all on going projects citing huge investments already been made.
The Central government had scrapped two projects of National Thermal Power Corporation (NTPC) in Uttarakhand under pressure from Aggarwal. But, the environment ministry's approval to Chamoli hydro project despite concerns raised by a statutory advisory body has triggered the latest round of protests.
Environment minister Jayanthi Natarajan has now held back the approval given to the project but the activists believe election is the right time to seek commitment from Congress and BJP on scrapping of the ongoing projects.
"We have no option other than to protest. We may not have crowd to influence the government but has strong faith to have an impact," Aggarwal said in a letter to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. Aggarwal had earlier sat on fast leading to Singh declaring Ganga as a national river and setting up an authority to protect it.
Aggarwal and his supports believe the authority has failed to implement its mandate and was trying to promote hydro-projects which could destroy ecology of the Himalayan belt. He has been fasting for the last five days in Allahabad in Uttar Pradesh and will shift to Haridwar (Uttarakhand) in last week of January. Aggarwal wants PM to issue direction to stop these projects.