Agra: Green activists on Tuesday criticized an action plan launched to control air pollution in Agra, one of India’s most polluted cities and home to the Taj Mahal, for ignoring the contribution of the Yamuna river to the present mess. The Clean Air Action Plan was launched with a lot of fanfare and hype on Saturday but failed to convince local activists of its effectiveness and approach. Experts say that air pollution has stunted the growth of the tourism sector in Agra.
A group of environmentalists said ahead of the World Environment Day on June 5 said,
They failed to note that all Mughal monuments that attract the tourists were sited along the Yamuna’s banks. And a dry polluted river cannot only foul up the ambiance but prove a threat to the survival of these precious heritage assets.
Agra is notorious for heaps of garbage that are openly burnt, illegal colonies and structures in reserved forest areas and large-scale construction on Yamuna’s flood plains, a meeting held along the Yamuna was told by green activists.
They said the chief contributors to the air pollution in Agra were the dry river bed and the westerly winds from the neighbouring Rajasthan desert that brings tons of dust, raising the SPM (suspended particulate matter) level in the Taj Trapezium Zone, spread over 10,400 square kilometre.
The Saturday launch of the action plan was attended by Uttar Pradesh Chief Secretary Anup Pandey, senior officials of the Union Ministry of Environment and Forest as well as UN representatives.
Mr. Pandey admitted that while noxious gas emissions were under control, it was the alarming levels of SPM and RSPM that were a challenge. The Action Plan covers vehicle emission control, suspension of road dust, emission control such as biomass, crop residue, garbage and municipal solid waste burning, industrial emissions, air pollution from construction and demolition activities and monitoring of air quality among others.
Officials claimed that Agra’s tourism the industry had been hit hard due to high air pollution which had caused hurt to the Taj Mahal.
Green activists Ranjan Sharma and Shailendra Singh Narwaar told a meeting on Tuesday that till the Yamuna river was cleaned and filled with water, all 12 months, “no strategy to fight air pollution will succeed”.
Devashish Bhattacharya, an environmentalist, blamed the authorities for failing to protect the eco-sensitive Taj Trapezium Zone’s green cover and water bodies from encroachment. He said,
Instead of green, the dominant colours all around are grey and brown. If they are serious about controlling air pollution in Agra, they must not only clean, desilt, dredge the Yamuna river but ensure the expansion of the green cover.
NDTV – Dettol Banega Swachh India campaign lends support to the Government of India’s Swachh Bharat Mission (SBM). Helmed by Campaign Ambassador Amitabh Bachchan, the campaign aims to spread awareness about hygiene and sanitation, the importance of building toilets and making India open defecation free (ODF) by October 2019, a target set by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, when he launched Swachh Bharat Abhiyan in 2014. Over the years, the campaign has widened its scope to cover issues like air pollution, waste management, plastic ban, manual scavenging and menstrual hygiene. The campaign has also focused extensively on marine pollution, clean Ganga Project and rejuvenation of Yamuna, two of India’s major river bodies.