Veer Bhadra Mishra consigned to flames

March 15, 2013
By Binay Singh
Times of India

VARANASI: Pandit Veer Bhadra Mishra, eminent environmentalist, member of National Ganga River Basin Authority, and the founder-president of Sankat Mochan Foundation, was on Thursday cremated along the river that he fought all his life for to conserve and save from degradation. He was 74.

Mishra, one of the leading oracles of this ancient city on matters environmental, died of acute bronchial infection in BHU hospital on Wednesday. Honoured by the UN in its global 500 roll of honour and given the epithet "Hero of the Planet" by Time magazine, Mishra was an engineering graduate from Institute of Technology, BHU.

Popular as Mahantji, Mishra was devoted to the cause Ganga. In one of his articles in Current Science, he wrote, "The resurgence of India in modern times has become phenomenal, which the world is experiencing today. In this process, culture, science and technology (S&T), political process and the people must interact for balanced development of the country. We need to inculcate scientific outlook in the masses. S&T needs to appreciate the finer elements and fundamentals of our culture. Our universities and professional bodies have to take the lead, be it cleaning of rivers, environment or other spheres, affecting one billion people living in the country. A good beginning could be made by cleaning Ganga at Varanasi, using appropriate technology with minimum cost and by involving people. It will be inspiring and rewarding for the nation to clean the river."

In the citation given to him by BHU along with the 'Distinguished Alumnus Awards' in 2008, his name was described as synonymous with the Swachha Ganga Campaign, a unique effort to clean Ganga by creating an interface between science, technology, culture and faith, nationally and internationally.

The technical options developed by his Swachha Ganga Campaign use natural processes and gravity for cleaning the river and serve as a model for other rivers as well. Mishra was instrumental in reviving and protecting the rich and varied cultural traditions of the country through Sankat Mochan Sangeet Samaroh and Dhrupad Mela.

Born on January 10, 1939, Mishra inherited the position of Mahant at the Sankat Mochan temple at the age of 14. He did his BSc, MSc and PhD in civil engineering from BHU and later joined his alma mater as a faculty member. A professor of hydraulic engineering at BHU, Mishra was the founder president of the Sankat Mochan Foundation (SMF).

Rich tributes were paid to Mishra, with spiritual guru Sri Sri Ravi Shankar paying homage. Leaders across political parties attended the funeral.

The SMF, working for the cause of Ganga, has been associated with other organisations like Thames 21 (London), Friends of Ganges (US), Asia Foundation, Oz Green (Australia), and Swedish International Development Agency. Mishra received many national and international awards and recognitions.

Large number of people thronged the ghat to bid adieu to Varanasi's foremost son. "It's a huge loss to the nation as well as clean Ganga campaign," said BD Tripathi, another NRGBA members and environment scientist at BHU, who had a long association with Mishra since 1975. "We had gone to Delhi together to attend the last meeting of NGRBA chaired by the Prime Minister in April last year," he said.