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Environmental impact of Mayapur urbanization - by V.Solaiyappan B.E.

Jagat - Mon, 19 Sep 2005 19:27:56 +0530
Do we need a new Temple? At what cost?

This letter is offered to Srila Prabhupada for his kind perusal, I am sure (Ok, speculating!) SP will be in favor of “simple living and high thinking” and will prefer to use the land resources for the sustenance of the community instead of urbanizing the Dham. He will feel content with what his disciples have done after him in Mayapur. We have established ourselves as the most successful community among all the GV.


Temples in large cities are meant for attracting general public and helps us to spread our mission. There is nothing wrong in building magical temples in urbanized cities. Sri Dham Mayapur has a special place in our life, its significance as the holiest place for GV, its hidden nature, its Flora and Fauna and holiness of the rivers are not for a bargain.

1. In our Sampradaya Temples are traditionally simple and have less priority in this Kaliyuga.

2. Attracting tourists to this hidden Vrindavan will lead to ecological damage, do we need to popularize it like the present day Vrindavan?

3. Any massive investment by ISKCON will accelerate the urbanization of Mayapur.

4. ISKCON Mayapur being an impressive tourist designation has already degraded the quality of life in the Dham. ISKCON has so far not carried out any holistic plan to reverse this trend. From this we can infer or forecast that the New Temple will accelerate urbanization of Mayapur.

5. The proposed new temple with massive funding will lead to an irreparable loss to the delicate eco system of Mayapur

6. Holistic development of a temple town is not feasible in this flood prone island. The studies conducted at Dharmashala, Tirupathy, Santhiniketan and Auroville cannot be applied to this small unstable land mass trapped between two perennial rivers.

7. Historically Mayapur and surrounding areas were thickly forested with tigers roaming around. The river banks were naturally protected with dense vegetation. There was no erosion of soil and the island was always above water level. No threat from flooding. Greedy men started cultivation and destroyed the forests leading to extensive erosion of soil and consequent flooding.
8. We find one of the rarest variety of fresh water Dolphins in the confluence of River Ganges and Jalangi indicating that the eco system is not yet polluted to the extent of destruction of their habitat. Platanista gangetica the Ganges river dolphin-Most endangered species-I am sure this is going to be the single most important factor to attract world community to save Mayapur from environmental damage.
9. A simple ecological plan can prevent flooding of the island; simply recreate the forests with its original inhabitants. Nature will bring its own defense system to survive or stop flooding of the island. Instead of expanding and maintaining temples we will maintain the entire Dham .

10. We have the primary responsibility to recreate and restore the forests of the past era and pass it on to the forth coming generations. What do we do with 1000s of acres of land acquired using questionable means and ways against the law of the land from poor peasants? What did we do for their rehabilitation? The land is neither used productively nor protected from soil erosion because of extensive mono cropping with rice and absence of soil holding trees and vegetation on the banks of both the rivers.

11. ISKCON is hoarding land by holding them in BINAMI trusts, the real estate business of ISKCON runs on black money to raise funds ostensibly for the new temple!

12. Authorities in ISKCON are not willing to take the local population or other Vaishnava communities in to confidence to establish the need for such a massive temple and infrastructural facilities.

13. In a democracy every citizen has the right to protect the environment from abuse. There are very strong and legally valid objections against a new massive temple in Mayapur. The law of the land and the rights of citizens on environmental protection are serious issues for ISKCON.

14. After ISKCON invested so much of money on infrastructure in the past, the level of filth and pollution increased manifold. ISKCON attracted tourists and the local people lured by the opportunity established business catering to them. Wine, women and meat entered the market. This trend will be accelerated by the new temple project, if this is the ultimate result of such hard work of ISKCON devotees, do we need it? What other great purpose it is going to serve? The land is already holy, how can new temples make it holier?
There are other vital priorities for the movement and also time and circumstances are different now. The world is moving towards green, eco friendly and sustainability of environment.

Srila Prabhupada has said so many things, and he has also told us to use our intelligence to discriminate and decide based on time and circumstances. So let us be humble and serve the Vaishnava community and Lord Guranga’s Janma bhoomi by recreating and managing the natural systems of Mayapur. Please let us NOT raise massive funds to destroy the natural features of this Holy Dham!

V.Solaiyappan B.E (Metallurgy)

Note: The comments are not directed against any individual, being an environmentalist I want to fight for the restoration and preservation of Mayapur. My comments may be biased because of my lack of spiritual sadana or expertise in observing natural systems. My humble apologies to my GM for creating controversy, but I pray my GM is kind enough to consider it as a real issue and approach it objectively. More practical info on sustainable community development can be found at

I have invited eminent environmental activists like Medha Patkar of Narmada valley project, Vandana Shiva, eco-feminist writer, Chipco president from Himachal Pradesh and media reporters to visit Mayapur during the 2006 GBC meetings for an interaction with our community, local people and other Maths..

Mail from HG Pancharatna das,

Dandavad. Prabhupada kijaya!

Recently Lilasuka prabhu of the EC forwarded a document from you "Do we need
a new Temple? At what cost?" to the SMPDC.

As you and I know each other from Mayapur, it seemed appropriate that I
first contact you in regards your concerns.

First of all I want to assure you that the SMPDC is very committed to
environmental sustainability in the development of the project. I invite
you to review a document produced on this several years ago entiteld
"Sustainable Development in the Region of Mayapur" which can be downloaded

We all feel that the best way for you to address your concerns would be a
personal meeting with Abhirama prabhu, who leads the design and planning
process and is familiar with the issues you raise. Do you get to Delhi any

I believe that you'll find that the SMPDC shares your concerns about the
environment, although taking a different approach. Also you may find that
some of your concerns are unwarranted.

We have undertaken a Rapid Environment Impact study which indicates that
the projects we are conceiving will not have adverse impact. Rather I
believe we can see positive improvents, through various initiatives.

Your servant,
Pancaratna das


Hare Krishna Prabhu,

Please accept my humble obeisances. All glories to Srila Prabhupada!
I am not getting in to the details of sustainable development. I strongly feel that the concept of a massive temple is not sustainable. I am against the concept itself. The investment we are planning to dump in Mayapur will make it unsustainable. The fund raising programs and the enormous amount of man power planned to be spent on this project are unwarranted. The technology, the management of the project and the introduction of systems to achieve targets will lead to degradation of devotee life. Our mission will not sustain this unnecessary onslaught on our core activities for spreading the KC movement. I am trying to figure out the pros and cons of a new temple and it is my humble personal opinion that the concept itself is flawed.

Due to the mega nature of the project devotees will be forced to focus more and more on Karmic activities in the excuse of serving the Lord. Fund raising and building a massive temple are unwarranted physical and technical complexities imposed on the unsuspecting devotee community by vested interests.

For example, we have built the magnificent Srila Prabhupad’s Puspa Samadhi, what was our experience? We can forecast the future using the above model. 100s of labors were brought in along with security personal to safe guard, manage and maintain the facilities and we have grown in to a commercial hub with in and outside the campus. We have converted number of devotees greedy of money, business and opportunity. Majority of the Bramacharies have personally concluded preference for married life and looking at ways to become labors. This trend is a corruption in our ideology.

I am not interested in the details of how the sustainable aspect of this project is going to be taken care of? First of all, why should we create unsustainability through this project and then invest on holistic and sustainable development. Instead, we should be proactive in reversing the proliferating trend in Mayapur.
Before 100 years Mayapur had a self sustaining eco system, there was no big investment injected by our Acharyas. Investment is proportional to the disturbance it is going to create in the system. As per the laws of Thermodynamics, the equilibrium status of the system is disturbed by introducing entropy. The system becomes more agitating, restless and unstable. This is what will happen if a new temple is built with a compromise of “Promoting sustainable development in the region of Mayapur”. We do not have complete control in the development of Mayapur. Every where haphazard concrete buildings are coming up and land value sky rocketed beyond its real worth. So all this proposed or planned eco concepts will never work, our priorities will vary in future, we will focus on fund raising and building the temple, the local people and business men will exploit the expanded opportunity provided by ISKCON. Entropy is introduced in to the eco system of Mayapur in the form of MONEY. If you spend lot of money to build a sustainable township, the concept of sustainability is lost. Sustainability means neither introducing nor taking out anything from the bio region of Mayapur.
Historically we can see ancient temples all around the world, built out of enormous labor, dedication and devotion to the task. In South India we find 1000s of temples like SriRangam, Madurai Meenakshi Temple, Tanjore Big Temple, Rameswaram Temple etc., These massive temples can never be recreated by money, so by building the Vedic planetarium we will be listed among the many who did it in the past. Even King Shajagan had built a Samadhi temple for his most beloved wife Mumtaz, can any thing be more marvelous than this monument on earth?

I am aware that I am not projecting any thing not know to the authorities, but my aim is to discuss these issues in public devotee forums for lateralizing the blind concept of the new temple.

At last, I apologize for making unwarranted comments, can you please point it out to enable me to correct myself?

Personally I am against the concept of unlawful clandestine activities authorized by individual ISKCON authorities. We are in a public domain, a religious charitable Trust, registered under the registration of society’s act. The society should adhere to the law of the land, this is more important than getting things done in the service of the Lord.

I wish to list out the advantages and disadvantages of establishing this new temple, your feed back in this regard will be very much appreciated.

Thanks and regards,
Your humble servant,

Shyammuty das

For info: Presently I am living in the temple city of SriRangam in Trichirapalli. No one can recreate this massive temple; nowadays the city is flooded by tourists and we find filth and pollution every where. SriRangam (Known as Bhuloka Vaikuntham) is an island situated between Rivers Kaveri and Kolidam like Mayapur. In a short span of 50 years the rivers disappeared. There were several Dams built on its way to block the waters and now this perennial river has degraded in to a flood relief channel. The eco system died on the river banks and we can see the desertification around this area. This will be the consequence of urbanizing holy places.