Mourning the Loss of Life-Long Activist, and Friend, Smitu Kothari

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I am greatly saddened by the news that Indian scholar-activist Smitu Kothari died on Monday morning of a cardiac arrest. Smitu was 59. He was a pillar of Indian and international campaigns against dams and other destructive development projects and policies, and for social justice and peace.

Smitu was a long-time supporter of International Rivers and a dear friend to me and to many who are, or have been over the years, on our staff, board and advisory board. He was someone who you knew would never give up their mission of educating and advocating and inspiring others to do the same. It is terribly sad that he was not given longer to do his good work.

I first met Smitu when I worked at The Ecologist magazine in England in 1989. Although I was young, inexperienced and totally new to the esoteric world of campaigning against World Bank policies and Indian dams, Smitu was never patronizing and immediately treated me as an equal in the struggle. From others I’ve spoken to, its clear that his quiet charm, intellect, compassion, dedication and shrewdness were an inspiration to many young activists (many of them no longer at all young).  

While Smitu was as serious and bookish as anyone I’ve met, he also had a wonderful lightness of spirit and a warm sense of humour that always lurked just below the surface of his often deadpan demeanour.

Click here for touching tributes to Smitu from our colleagues at the Bank Information Center (on whose board Smitu served), and the Narmada Bachao Andolan.

We’ll miss you, Smitu.