GD Agarwal, as Sant Swami Sanand, Sant Swami Gyan Swaroop Sanand who died on Thursday at AIIMS Rishikesh following long fast demanding cleansing of River Ganga, was an Indian Environmentalist and religious figure, professor, monk. He was the Patron of an NGO named the Ganga Mahasabha founded by the Madan Mohan Malviya in 1905
He was once a professor at the Indian Institute of Technology, Kanpur, and had also served as member-secretary of the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB).
Agarwal, began his fast on June 22, demanding steps to stop construction of hydroelectric projects along the river’s tributaries and enact the Ganga Protection Management Act. The 86 year-old seer had also given up drinking water on Wednesday. Before his death, he wrote a letter alleging that the Haridwar administration officials forcibly shifted him from his protest site to AIIMS.
The activist sat on numerous protests during his lifetime and campaigned against the construction of projects along River Ganga. One of the most notable agitations Agarwal held was in 2010, when he fasted for 38 days, seeking scrapping of the 600 MW Lohari Nagpala project on Bhagirathi River since it hampered the free flow of water. The project was finally put off by a ministers’ panel. Sanand was also a member of National River Ganga Basin Authority during the UPA tenure.
Born to a farming family in Kandhla, Muzaffarnagar district, Uttar Pradesh in 1932, he studied in local primary and secondary schools and graduated in civil engineering from the University of Roorkee (now IIT Roorkee). While he was the member secretary of the Central Pollution Control Board during 1979-80, he was also a visiting professor for environmental engineering at the University of Roorkee.
He began his professional career as a design engineer in the Uttar Pradesh state Irrigation Department, and later obtained a PhD in environmental engineering from the University of California at Berkeley. He has authored many scientific publications. Agrawal was raised to be deeply religious and educated to be rigorously scientific. In July 2011, he became a Hindu sannyasi and now he is known by his new name Swami Gyanswaroop Sanand.