One of India’s most prominent environmental activists has died after more than 15 weeks of a hunger strike to protest against government inaction on cleaning up the Ganges River.
86-year-old GD Agarwal prompted an outpouring of grief and tributes from activists.
“His demise has shut one of the leading voices of criticism of the government on the Ganga pollution," Environmentalist Rakesh Jaiswal told Reuters.
“He was one of the most important figures in this fight.”
The Ganges is India’s largest river system and one of its most polluted.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi came to power in 2014 with a pledge to clean up the river that’s 2,500 kilometres long and used for water by 400 million people, but a flagship five-year project he launched in 2015 fell flat, critics say.
Agarwal who held a PhD in environmental engineering from the University of California in Berkeley, began his fast on June 22 in the northern Haridwar city.
When he started, he demanded a law to protect the river and the scrapping of construction of hydroelectric projects along its banks that have destroyed its natural flow.
In a letter to Mr Modi in August, he threatened to fast unto death unless action was taken.
Mr Modi said on Twitter he was "saddened" by Mr Agarwal's death.
"His passion towards learning, education, saving the environment, particularly Ganga cleaning, will always be remembered. My condolences," he said.