In 2009, Prof. (Dr.) G.D. Agrawal (now Swami Gyanswaroop Sanand) gave up his third fast-unto-death after the Ministry of Power assured him that work on the Loharinag-Pala barrage, a part of NTPC’s 600-MW namesake hydropower project on Bhagirathi river in Uttarkashi district of Uttarakhand, would be suspended. Prof. Agrawal was protesting against the possible damming of the natural flow of the river. His previous fasts-unto-death over more than one project elicited strong support from the local people.
Long before Dr. Agrawal became an activist and a sannyasi, he was an environmental engineer, one of the doyens in the field. Born 80 years ago, on July 20, 1932, Dr. Agrawal teaches environmental sciences at the Mahatma Gandhi Chitrakoot Gramodaya Vishwavidyalaya in Chitrakoot, Madhya Pradesh.
Dr. Agrawal was born into a farming family at Kandhla in Muzaffarnagar district of Uttar Pradesh. After studying in local primary and secondary schools and graduating in Civil Engineering from the University of Roorkee (now IIT-Roorkee), Dr. Agrawal began his professional career as a design engineer in the Uttar Pradesh state irrigation department and later obtained a Ph.D. in environmental engineering from the University of California at Berkeley.
He was the first Member-Secretary of the Central Pollution Control Board and was the former head of the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering at IIT-Kanpur. At CPCB, he helped shape India’s pollution control regulatory structure. He has also been a member of various government committees shaping policy-making and administrative mechanisms to improve quality of environment in the country.
Dr. Agrawal is one of the much sought-after environment impact assessment (EIA) consultants and is Director of Envirotech Instruments (P) Ltd, New Delhi, a company he established with some of his former students from IIT-Kanpur. He has also authored many scientific publications.
Over the years Dr G.D. Agrawal has been supporting rural development initiatives grounded in scientific methodology and has helped mentor well-known development activists.