Vir Bhadra Mishra, Ganga activist and Mahant of Sankat Mochan temple at Varanasi, passes away

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Photo Courtesy: sankatmochanfoundationonline.org

Vir Bhadra Mishra, 72, Ganga activist and Mahant of the Sankat Mochan temple at Varanasi, passed away on Wednesday 13 March, at 4 pm. Mishra headed the Sankat Mochan Foundation, an NGO at the forefront in trying to free the river Ganga of pollution. He is survived by two sons and wife. He was recognised on the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) Global 500 roll of honour and was a Time magazine ‘Hero of the planet’ recipient in 1999 for his works related to the cleaning of the Ganga through Sankat Mochan foundation. He was one of the members of the NGRBA (National Ganga River Basin Authority) under the Union Ministry of Forest and Environment. The NGRBA was set up in 2009, by the Center as an empowered planning, financing, monitoring and coordinating authority for the Ganges, in exercise of the powers conferred under the Environment (Protection) Act, 1986.

Mishra was admitted to the BHU medical college hospital a fortnight ago. He retired as a professor of Hydraulic engineering and was the former Head of the Civil Engineering Department at the IIT (BHU), Varanasi. His education helped him understand the threats to the Ganges, and since 1982 he has struggled to sensitise the politicians, bureaucracy and the common people towards the urgent need for cleaning the Ganga. Mishra mobilised financial support from the local people, various individuals and some Government agencies of the United States and Sweden, for the cause of the Ganga.

Working along with William Oswald, an engineering professor emeritus at the University of California, Berkeley, Mishra proposed an Advanced Integrated Wastewater Pond System (AIWPS). It would store sewage for 45 days, using bacteria and algae to eliminate waste and purify the water.

Mishra was an arch critic of the Ganga Action Plan (GAP) launched in 1985 by the then Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi in Varanasi. Even after spending thousands of crores on diverting the sewage lines, construction of sewage treatment plants in big cities like Kanpur, Allahabad, and Varanasi and construction of effluent treatment plant in Kanpur, for the treatment of the toxic waste generated by hundreds of tanneries, Ganga remains polluted.

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