Yamuna activists march to warn of threat to Taj Mahal

Rubbish collected on the banks of the Yamuna River, next to the Taj Mahal. Agra, India.

Agra: Activists and environmentalists here marched to demand release of water from upstream barrages to sustain the ecology of Yamuna and provide moisture to the foundation of the Taj Mahal.

Highlighting the grave threat to the Taj Mahal from a dry Yamuna river bed, activists marched in a procession Sunday night from Haathi Ghat, near the Agra Fort to the Etmauddaula viewpoint park, raising slogans to demand the release of water.

Last week at a conference in Agra, architects and conservationists warned of serious threat to the foundation of the Taj Mahal due to the dry river.

An artificial park developed by the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) at the rear of the Taj had distanced the river by 100 yards.

A former IIT professor SC Handa had raised objections to the park warning it would prove dangerous to the foundation of the Taj.

As pointed out by eminent historian Professor R Nath, the foundation rests on sal wood beams which require constant moisture.

Historians have pointed out that the Taj Mahal rests on wooden planks and concrete foundation “which require constantly enough moisture”, environmentalist Dr Devashish Bhattacharya said.

The river remains dry for most part of the year, as water flow is captivated by Haryana and Delhi government denying downstream cities their claim to the river water, he added.

Speakers demanded a barrage on Yamuna for Agra city’s growing water needs. Shravan Kumar Singh, a conservationist said the barrage will be able to provide enough moisture to the foundation of the Taj.

Dr Anand Rai, president of India Rising, an NGO, said river police squads should be activated to keep an eye on polluters. The drains and sewer drains opening into the river have to be tapped.

For far too long Yamuna had been neglected. “So far there have only been promises and no action. We can no longer wait. Citizens of Agra are angry and frustrated,” said Jyoti, Charmayne Tiwari, Anita Yadav, women activists of the River Connect Campaign.

Earlier, activists of half a dozen organisations working for Yamuna met in Vrindavan to demand a Yamuna River Basin Commission to plan, execute and monitor various projects for the cleaning and conservation of the river.