We best remember Professor Brij Gopal as someone who was very frank in his criticism of river and wetland policies. He strongly voiced the need for conserving river ecology and conceptualised the river regulation zone to offer legal protection to river floodplains from activities that could threaten the health of rivers.
Based on his extensive work on the Ken-Betwa river ecosystem, Professor Brij Gopal questioned the hydrologic viability of the scheme. Challenging the very concept of surplus and deficit river, he questioned whether Ken had surplus water to transfer to the Betwa. He also questioned the way in which the detailed project report and the environment impact assessment had calculated the per capita basin water requirements for the two river basins.
For him, the essence of a river was its ebb and flow. He opposed the taming of free-flowing rivers by the building of massive dams and the threat they posed to the river ecology.
Professor Brij Gopal founded the Center for Inland Waters in South Asia and served as the Chairman of the National Institute of Ecology. He also served as an esteemed Honorary member of the Wetlands International South Asia Society. Professor Brij Gopal’s contributions in the field of aquatic ecology are extensive and he wrote on a wide range of issues related to ecology and environment and wetlands and their management. He held editorial positions for a number of prestigious scientific journals. He also served on several committees constituted by the Government of India and state governments.
Professor Brij Gopal’s imprints are everywhere, be it wetlands, grasslands or floodplain forests. We benefited very much from his inputs at the India Rivers Week over the years. His passion, his concern for our ecosystem, and the breadth of his knowledge will be deeply missed.