Agra: A quarter century of environmental activism, and a series of judicial interventions by the apex court, has not fundamentally changed the ecological conditions in the Taj Trapezium Zone, spread over 10,400 sq km. The air pollution level continues to remain alarming, affecting both humans and stones. River activists here have demanded urgent steps to save the Yamuna, which is slowly dying due to pollution and lack of water. Not just human life, even the stone heritage is under threat. Tourism has been badly hit and the health of the local population is in peril, the activists said.
Recommendations of expert committees are gathering dust and the Supreme Court orders have been blatantly ignored. Shifting orders for dairies, dhobi ghats, cremation sites, petha units, have been shelved. Transport companies emitting pollutants on the Yamuna Kinara Road, have not been shifted either.
The National Green Tribunal has been struggling with its orders on clearing encroachments on Yamuna flood-plains. After four years of dilly-dallying even the boundaries of the flood plains have not been clearly demarcated, the campaigners complain.
Vested interests had colluded to usurp precious land in the eco-sensitive Soor Sarovar area along the river, they alleged. A public meeting, held on Sunday night at the Etmadudaullah viewpoint park here along the river, was attended by environmentalists, heritage conservationists and green activists, who collectively lamented the apathy of elected Vidhan Sabha and Lok Sabha members towards the Yamuna, the lifeline of the city.
River Connect campaigners said the drying and highly polluted Yamuna was a constant threat to the safety of Mughal monuments like the Taj Mahal and Etmadudaullah, whose foundations need continuous moisture and a pollution free ambience.
In a resolution, the activists reminded Union Transport Minister Nitin Gadkiri of his promise to start a ferry service for tourists between Delhi and Agra. In his recent election campaign speech at the Agra College ground, BJP President Amit Shah had promised that Yamuna cleaning would be taken up as a top priority after the elections.
Even Prime Minister Narendra Modi has spoken of steps to save the Yamuna. Having announced the construction of a barrage downstream of the Taj Mahal, Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath has suddenly developed cold feet, speakers at the conference alleged.
The river activists also demanded a comprehensive National Rivers Policy and a Central Rivers Authority. Green activist Shravan Kumar Singh said that despite persistent demands, so far no initiative had been taken to desilt and dredge the river bed, which had become hard owing to pollutants, preventing seepage and percolation of water.
Environmentalist Chaturbhuj Tiwari said,
Though the Supreme Court had categorically directed ban on entry of cattle in the river and shifting of dhobis (washermen) polluting the river, no effort has been made by the district authorities in this direction.
The conference called for a white paper on the expenses incurred by various government agencies on cleaning the Yamuna between Delhi and Agra. A resolution passed urged all NGOs, voluntary groups and environmentalists to come on a common platform to launch a broader people’s movement to save India’s rivers and other water bodies.
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.