Yamuna will live, Manoj ji….
Manoj Misra, one of the Yamuna’s most dedicated sons, passed away on Sunday, 4 June, and has left behind a unique riverine conservation legacy without an heir apparent.
His untimely departure has left a void in the Yamuna conservation movement, a crusade that he led through a landmark initiative called the ‘Yamuna Jiye Abhiyaan'. His extraordinary fight and unwavering conviction for the revival of this holy river left an indelible mark on the world of conservation. Misra was the true epitome of the stand-alone spirit.
Despite representing the government and serving in the Indian Forest Services for over 20 years, Misra would often clash with government agencies solely for the interest of the environment, and out of concern for the Yamuna river. He never shied away from voicing his opinion for matters close to his heart.
A Guiding Light for the Water Conservation Movement
My awareness of his work is relatively recent — just over 15 years. I never had the opportunity to work closely with him. He was, however, a guiding light for many in the pursuit of water conservation. A Dronacharya to many Eklavyas — Misra was strongly inspired by the love and passion he had for the Yamuna.
My work at The Energy and Resources Institute (TERI) focused on engaging school children with Yamuna conservation issues under the aegis of Yamuna Action Plan-II, a flagship initiative of the Union Ministry of Environment Forests and Climate Change. And that's how I got to Misra ji closely.
In my quarter of a century-long stint in the environment sector, I have rarely come across individuals who have commanded more admiration for their post-retirement endeavours than Misra. His second innings as a river crusader overshadowed his past contributions as a forester.
He left us at a time when the river and those fighting for her needed him the most. Today the world celebrates Environment Day, and on the Yamuna ghats, a major campaign called ‘Yamuna Sansad’ is being planned, which promises to bring together 1,00,000 people to remind us of our duty to protect the river.
A Deep Connection to Nature
Though he will not be around to witness this major congregation that would reflect the spirit of saving a dying river, the reverberation of the 'Yamuna Sansad' will surely reach him wherever he is.
As we mourn the loss of an enigma, we should celebrate his remarkable life, which will always be an inspiration for us to strive for a clean, flowing Yamuna.
Misra always felt a deep connection to nature, which helped shape his life and work. Sensing the threat that the river was facing due to pollution and neglect, he embarked on a journey to revive the river through his pioneering effort - 'Yamuna Jiye Abhiyaan'.
This 'Yamuna Jiye Abhiyaan' was able to successfully engage with community members, nature enthusiasts, academics, scientists, and policymakers to put up a collective fight to save the Yamuna.
His Departure Leaves a Void That Cannot be Filled
Misra's efforts were not limited to the confines of seminars and conferences. He felt it necessary to embrace a hands-on approach and began the work of saving the Yamuna by organising countless cleanliness campaigns, tree-plantation initiatives, and awareness drives that would strive to bring the Yamuna issue to the centre of every discussion surrounding the environment within Delhi-NCR.
He had strong faith in the legal system, and so he knocked at the doors of the courts hoping for justice. He was also a frequent visitor to the National Green Tribunal (NGT) and the Central Empowered Committee on Environment.
Misra's departure leaves behind a void that cannot be filled but his memory will forever remain etched in the hearts of those who knew him. His Twitter account broke the news of his demise with the line in Hindi: ‘Rahen na rahen ham mahka karenge ...’
His legacy will live on, a testament to his dedication, integrity, and commitment to the environment, and will continue to spread like a soothing fragrance flowing like the Yamuna river.
British Author George Eliot once said, “Our dead are never dead to us, until we have forgotten them”. As we pay tribute to Misra, let us renew our vows and continue to work towards the conservation of the Yamuna river and beyond.
(Dr Pranab J Patar is an award-winning environment & sustainability professional with nearly 25 years of experience having worked with leading national and international organisations such as TERI, Earthwatch Institute, GIZ, WaterAid, CEE, WTI, etc. This is an opinion article and the views expressed above are the author’s own. The Quint neither endorses nor is responsible for them.)