ONCE REGARDED as amrit (nectar), a river that sustained all forms of life, the Ganga is now threated by the very civilisation it once nurtured. Not only is the river being subjected to overwhelming human and industrial pollution, it is now being threatened by the construction of massive dams. These ill-conceived projects in its upper reaches are effectively throttling the Ganga at its very source, the Gaumukh. In some places, the dams are slowing the mighty river’s flow to a trickle. Dammed, diverted and overtapped, the most revered of Indian rivers is under grave threat.
While raising the issue in Parliament on 15 May, Samajwadi Party MP Rewati Raman Singh made an impassioned plea for saving the Ganga from dams. “Having commissioned the Tehri dam as the irrigation and environment minister of Uttar Pradesh, I have no qualms in saying that it was the biggest mistake of my life,” he said. “The then Union environment minister Maneka Gandhi was opposed to this project, but we were somehow led to believe that the Tehri dam would generate 2,400 MW of electricity and irrigate 1.67 lakh hectares in Uttar Pradesh and Bihar. Nothing of this sort happened. Not even 400 MW of electricity is being generated. I’m reminded of the words of social reformer Madan Mohan Malviya, who had said that if we construct dams like this in the Himalayas, then the whole of north India will be destroyed. If nothing is done now by the government, we will soon start an agitation from Allahabad.”