Saturday, March 14, 2009

Scientist's hunger strike halts work on Himalayan dam

The near-death of one of India’s most distinguished scientists has halted work on a major hydroelectric dam in the Himalayas. Professor AD Agarwal, 77, former dean of the Indian Institute of Technology Delhi at Kanpur, has been on hunger strike for 38 days in protest against a project that would dam the waters of a Ganges tributary.

"The water ... is not ordinary water to a Hindu. It is a matter of the life and death of Hindu faith," Agarwal said, before beginning his fast in January.

This is his second fast in the past year, which he called off last week only after the Indian government agreed that it would look into electricity generation that would not impede the flow of the holy Ganges. The river must run free in order to maintain its sacred status.

However, this dam project is only one of the hundreds planned to for the Himalayan foothill regions of India, Nepal, Bhutan and Pakistan. The power needs of these nations are rising, but according to a recent report by the NGO International Rivers, many are being carried out with little environmental assessment. …

Scientist's Hunger Strike Halts Work on Himalayan Dam

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