You have only thought of earning profits from the Ganges.
“You have only thought of earning profits from the Ganges,” wrote GD Agarwal to the Indian government. His protest against a failure to prevent industrial pollution into the river eventually led to his death - 111 days into a hunger strike.
GD Agarwal, a former professor of environmental engineering at one of India’s top universities, died from a heart attack caused by his fast, according to doctors.
The 2,525km Ganges is considered holy by Hindus, but for is heavily polluted by untreated sewage and industrial waste.
Indian prime minister, Narendra Modi, has said that cleaning the river was one of his government’s top priorities, but Agarwal said that action taken by the government so far had not been nearly effective enough.
He wanted hydropower and sand mining projects along the river to be stopped. In a letter to Modi, he said that businesses had been the only ones to gain from government action along the river.
The Indian government claimed that it was preparing tougher environmental regulations, but Agarwal did not believe that these would be strong enough, and gave up all liquids, leading to his death.
Agarwal had undertaken several fasts before against development in the river and in 2009 managed to stop the damming of the Bhagirathi river, a source stream for the Ganges, after fasting for 38 days.
Catherine Early is a freelance environmental journalist and chief reporter for the Ecologist. She was formerly the deputy editor of the Environmentalist. She can be found tweeting at @Cat_Early76.