Mining in Ganga
There is a stretch of river located near the foothills of the Himalayas it begins a few kilometers south of Haridwar and ends near the village of Dhariwala, about 22 kilometers downstream. This stretch of the Ganga has become the epicenter of a fierce and fatal environmental battle that has been drawn out over 20 years and still today, there is no sign of it abating.
On one side of this field of battle, stands a small group of dedicated sanyasinns who live in a tiny forest ashram called Matri Sadan, and on the other side are a conglomerate of local Haridwar businessmen, euphemistically called the mining mafia.
Symbolically, it is a battle between materialism and the sacredness of nature, and the struggle to save the Ganga from mining here could be seen to have a resonance with the great themes of the Mahabharata.The players represent the opposing forces of greed and conservation. Light and darkness, spirit and matter.
During every 12 years, the Kumbh Mela, India’s great spiritual festival is hosted on this stretch of river, its considered one of the most holy places in India. Ironically, it is in this most holy of places that the limestone and sulfur boulders that make up the river bed are to be found. To the mining industry, they may as well be made of gold. The unique composition of the boulders found here create the highest quality of sand for making cement, the building material of choice for almost all development projects in India. The rocks aren’t any old rocks, they are worth a fortune.
On the side of conservation is Swami Shivanand Saraswati, the spiritual head of Matri Sadan, he is a rail thin 40kg figure, clad in white cloth and his long dreadlocks are a visible testament to many years of renouncing a worldly life. Now in his mid 70‘s, he has been fighting the mining mafia for nigh on 20 years. He established Matri Sadan on the banks of the Ganga in the Kumbh area in 1997?, his intention was to build a small forest ashram intended for meditation and tapasya. Instead, he and his small band of renunciates have been engaged in a battle which has seen them beaten, jailed, offered bribes, and ultimately has ended in the suspicious death of two of his sanyassins. He maintains that its his mission from God to stop the mining mafia destroying the Ganga.
Like many of India’s natural resources, the Ganga is suffering from a plethora of life threatening problems. She is not that far from becoming a dead river. In Haridwar, where the sannyassins of Matri Sadan live, the still majestic river enters the plains of India from the Himalayas, symbolically, where the goddess Ganga enters the mundane world.
Dams in Ganga
Before it even gets to Haridwar, its journey is stalled by countless dams in the process of erection . Its crucial to understand how the sanyassins see the dams on the Ganga, from their perspective it is a massive disruption of the energies that have created the rivers reputation as the most sacred river in the world. By erecting the dams, the sacred energies, or if you like, the special feeling emitted by the Ganga is being destroyed.