Why no one cares for the river Yamuna!

Agra: A quarter-century of environmental activism, and a series of judicial interventions by the apex court, have not fundamentally changed the ecological conditions in the Taj Trapezium Zone, spread over 10,400 sq km. The pollution level continues to remain alarming, affecting both humans and stone.

River activists here have demanded urgent steps to save the Water bodies including 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.

The recommendations of expert committees are gathering dust and the Supreme Court orders have been blatantly ignored.

Shifting orders for dairies, dhobi ghats, cremation sites, and 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 floodplains. 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.

Conservationists lament 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 Taj and Etmadudaullah, whose foundations need continuous moisture and a pollution-free ambience.

The activists reminded Union Transport Minister Nitin Gadkari of his promise to start a ferry service for tourists between Delhi and Agra. In his 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, activists say.

The river activists also demanded a comprehensive National Rivers Policy and a Central Rivers Authority.

Green activist Devashish Bhattacharya 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 a 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 activists here called for a white paper on the expenses incurred by various government agencies on cleaning the Yamuna between Delhi and Agra.

They 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.

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