River activists demand prompt measures to save Yamuna river

By Brij Khandelwal

Agra, Jun 6 (IANS): River activists of Braj mandal have demanded prompt measures to save the Yamuna river.

At a meeting to commemorate the World Environment Day, at the Etmauddaula view point park, along the river, green activists lashed out at various government agencies for dragging their feet on strictly implementing environmental laws, to contain air and water pollution.

River Yamuna, along with six other rivers in the district were "virtually dead". "Most water bodies in the Agra district, as also in Mathura and Vrindavan are virtually dead, without water. Pollution of streams, holy Kunds, pokhars had reached an alarming level. The water table had gone down steeply and a big crisis was inevitable in coming days," warned noted environmentalist Devashish Bhattacharya.

In a resolution members of the River Connect Campaign demanded immediate start to construction work on the Rubber check dam downstream of the Taj Mahal. This project has been hanging fire for past 25 years. The green activists demanded demolition of all illegal structures on the flood plains of the river Yamuna, renovation of ghats, dredging, desalting of the river bed to scoop out pollutants that prevented percolation and seepage of water.

The meeting also demanded revisiting of the 1994 Yamuna water distribution agreement to ensure larger share of Yamuna water for Agra and Mathura.

Activists Rahul Raj and Deepak Rajput said there was an urgent need for a comprehensive national rivers policy and constitution of a central rivers authority for management of all big rivers in the country.

Friends of Vrindavan convener Jagan Nath Poddar said "millions of Sri Krishna Bhakts visit Braj mandal every year. The pilgrims feel saddened by the dismal plight of river Yamuna whose water was not fit for even achman. Immediate steps must be taken to restore good health and glory of the river Yamuna.

"The present ruling dispensation has not been as sensitive to environmental issues as was required considering the magnitude of the ecological challenges. The forests of Braj mandal had disappeared, the water bodies had become almost extinct due to negligence and the holy Goverdhan hill was under threat. Concretisation was proving disastrous in Vrindavan, Mathura, Gokul, Goverdhan. People were totally disenchanted with this model of development," activists said.

The river Yamuna as it enters Braj Mandal in Mathura district is already heavily polluted carrying tons of industrial effluents from industrial clusters upstream in Haryana and Delhi. Municipalities had failed to tap or divert drains that openly discharged domestic wastes, sewer waste, toxic wastes from industries.

How can Agra become a smart city, if its lifeline -- the Yamuna river -- remains "virtually dead", the activists asked.

The activists demanded a White Paper on measures taken to fight pollution after the 1993 Supreme Court judgement, the amount spent and the results. "Since there is zero accountability, nobody knows what is going on. The Taj Trapezium Zone authority is rudderless. It has proved totally ineffective and unresponsive. The river police squad that was announced long ago, has yet to begin operations," river Connect campaigners charged.


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