A holy river reduced to a sewage canal...

Agra/Mathura: As Sri Krishna-Radha devotees in Braj Mandal celebrate the birthday of Yamuna recently their hearts are filled with disgust and frustration to see the plight of the river which is the lifeline of millions of people from Delhi to Agra.

Each day the faithful return from the ghats in Vrindavan and Mathura disappointed and hurt to see the Yamuna dying with pollutants and effluents that leave a trail of thick and toxic foam choking all aqua life.

Pandit Jugal Kishor of the River Connect Campaign said “thousands of pilgrims who throng the holy river feel miserable when they see the dismal condition of the Yamuna river, stinking and rotting with pollutants, dead fish and toxins flowing down from upstream industrial clusters in Delhi and Haryana.”

Most go to take a holy dip or ‘aachman’ of the Yamuna, one of the holiest rivers of the Hindus, but the water of the river, which once Babar, the founder of the Mughal empire, described as “better than nectar” fills them with disgust, said environmentalist Devashish Bhattacharya.

The ghats along the banks of the river are buried in polluted silt. In Vrindavan, the Yamuna today flows at least 30 metres away from the famous Keshi ghat.

The Yamuna faces two major problems, said  Jagan Nath Poddar, convener of Friends of Vrindavan. “Lack of fresh water and high level of pollution. Successive governments have failed to address these issues.” Without a minimum flow, particularly during the lean months, it is not possible to revive the river or restore its pristine glory. Encroachments in the form of concrete structures on both sides are other issues,” Poddar added.

On festivals when thousands of pilgrims visit the ghats after darshan of Bankey Bihari in Vrindavan and a parikrama of the holy Goverdhan hill,  the reaction is sharp and negative. One hears only curses and abuses,” said a local Panda Madhu Mangal Shukla.

In Mathura, the polluted effluents from hundreds of sari-dyeing units discharged in the river have only compounded the problem. After the construction of the Gokul Barrage, the river distanced itself from the famous Gokul ghats. This obviously causes deep resentment and angry outbursts.

“The water is not fit for a holy dip or aachman. Those who dare to enter the Yamuna downstream of Gokul Barrage return complaining of itching and burning sensation,” according to a panda of Mahavan.

Reduced to a pale, sickly drain, the glory and grandeur of the Yamuna that attracted the Mughals to build some of the finest monuments like the Taj Mahal, the Ram Bagh or the Fort and the Etmaduddaula along its banks will never return, lamented members of the River Connect Campaign who organised a low key birthday celebration of the Yamuna maiyya at the Etmauddaula viewpoint park.

Indeed, the dry and polluted river had turned into a sewage canal, despite tall promises by Modi, Yogi, and Nitin Gadkari who had pompously announced ferry service for tourists from Delhi to Agra, Dr Devashish Bhattacharya recalled.