It is an interesting to see environmentalist and religious people on the same playing fields though both are playing for different ideological and scientific reasons. Though Ganga is a symbol of mother and a divine force and its water used in rituals in most Hindu homes, even by those not so religious, today this sentiment has been used to oppose the construction of dams across the Bhagirathi river. For the environmentalists, the anti dam issue is not associated with mythical and religious symbols. But for the religious leaders opposing the dams in the Himalaya, the Ganga and its tributaries symbolize Indian culture and civilization. Today it seems that the anti dam movement in the Himalayas has been highjacked by the religious bodies, and now the environmentalist are only the bystanders in environmental movement in the Himalayas.
All mega projects have been opposed by environmentalist and social activists, right from the time of Narmada to Tehri dam. But now religion in an organized form has comes to block dam projects. The question comes as to why the religious bodies did not oppose the Tehri dam and why Mahakhumbh time was used to oppose further dams on the Bhagrirathi river. Why no religious body opposed the dams which are still under construction on Alaknanda, at Vishu prayag, Pipalkoti, Srinagar-Garhwal, Kotlibhail near Devprayag and many more proposed on Alaknanda and its tributaries. Is Bhagirathi more scared than Alaknanda, though it is Alaknanda which becomes Ganga after meeting its tributary Bhagirathi at Devprayag.
Now that the central government has suspended the proposed hydropower projects on the Bhagirathi river, the environmentalists and the religious leaders might be pleased with the decision. It was thought that a pro dam decision at his juncture would have led the people and pilgrims to leave and even boycott the Mahakumbh. But why did the central government take such a decision at this time, they could have delayed the decision till the end of Mahakumbh. Did they also bow down to the ultimatum of the religious body? Interestingly no individual or Institution opposed the anti dam stand of the religious body during the Mahakumbh period. Even at the time of Tehri, while environmentalist opposed the dams on scientific grounds, the social activists and the local people were also on agitation for a better resettlement and rehabilitation package.
Now that the hydro power projects on the Bhagirathi river have been suspended on environmental and religious reasons, the opinions and oppositions on this decision is presently limited to media channels. With the limited livelihood options in the hills and seeing the mega projects as an employment avenue plus the benefits of resettlement and rehabilitation package being denied, the people are likely to agitate and come to streets. Once the Mahakumbh comes to an end and the religious heads enter their ashrams, the people in the catchment area will surely oppose this decision and many politicians and parties will stand by them.