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Yamuna Continues to Remain Dry Even After Heavy Rain; Threatens Mughal Monuments

The NGT in September 2018 had asked it to work on river cleaning programmes for 12 river basins

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yamuna, mughal monuments
In Agra city alone, there are 90 drains opening into Yamuna. Pixabay

Even after a fortnight of monsoon rains, river Yamuna in Agra continues to remain dry, with heaps of polluted garbage providing breeding grounds for mosquitoes and bacteria. This time of the year, the river is usually in spate, recalls old timer Ganno Pandey. But “so far we see no water flowing down. Only the drains are bringing in lots of pollutants and polythenes,” Pandey adds.

The Taj Mahal and other historical monuments along Yamuna’s banks are now feeling the heat. Already green patches on the surface have appeared at the rear side of the Taj Mahal. Experts have said these are excreta of mosquitoes breeding in the polluted waters of the river.

Just before the April 18 polling in Agra, Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP) President Amit Shah had categorically assured that the first task of the elected government would be cleaning of Yamuna and a barrage to hold back water behind the Taj Mahal.

Earlier, Nitin Gadkiri, the Union Minister for transport, has on umpteen occasions promised steamers would ferry tourists from Delhi to Agra. So far, one does not see any ground action. The CPCB has meanwhile decided to set up a unit in Agra to study pollution in Yamuna. The NGT in September 2018 had asked it to work on river cleaning programmes for 12 river basins.

yamuna, mughal monuments
The NGT in September 2018 had asked it to work on river cleaning programmes for 12 river basins. Pixabay

The projects should include sewage management plan, industrial effluent management plan, solid waste and flood plain management plan and ecological flow and ground water management plan.

“Is there any scope for more studies when countless studies done already have proved Yamuna water is unfit for humans and animals. What is flowing down in Yamuna is waste, untreated water, sewer, industrial effluents, highly toxic and full of pollutants, from upstream cities including Delhi,” commented environmentalist Devashish Bhattacharya.

In Agra city alone, there are 90 drains opening into Yamuna. The municipal corporation claims it has tapped some 40. “But a close investigation proves the claim hollow. The bigger ones, Bhairon, Mantola, Balkeshwar ‘naalas’ continue to discharge huge quantities of untreated waste water without any check,” says green activist Shravan Kumar Singh.

The Yamuna river bed between Etmauddaula and the Taj Mahal has become a dumping ground for pollutants. Polythene, plastic waste, leather cuttings from shoe factories, construction material, are all thrown into the river.

Once the festival season starts, PoP idol immersion will further worsen the eco-conditions. People are being advised to avoid using PoP idols, and go for simple conventional ‘mitti ki murti’,” said Lok Swar president Rajiv Gupta.

yamuna, mughal monuments
The Taj Mahal and other historical monuments along Yamuna’s banks are now feeling the heat. Pixabay

The city is lucky to have escaped a major drinking water crisis as the Gangajal pipeline from Bulandhshahar district became operational just in time during peak summer.

“Right now, half the city’s needs are being met by the Sikandra Water Works which gets Gangajal through a 135km long pipeline. Half the water is going waste as the old Water Works at Jeoni Mandi is yet to be connected with the pipeline. We are getting 375 MLD from the Gangajal pipeline,” an official explained.

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While the Gangajal pipeline may have solved the drinking water problem for the time being, the bigger question about dredging, desilting and cleaning of the river Yamuna considered vital for the historical monuments, remains unanswered.

“From 1990, politicians of all parties have been talking of a barrage on Yamuna downstream of the Taj Mahal. Twice, the foundation stones have been laid. Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath himself has announced the barrage project in Agra would start soon. But so far there is only talk, more talk and assurances. Why they are dragging their feet on this important project, no explanation is coming forth,” Surendra Sharma, president of the Braj Mandal Heritage Conservation Society said. (IANS)

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Activists Gather Along to Demand Cleaning of River Yamuna

Activists allege that this was the first such tragedy of river pollution that claimed human lives

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Yamuna
Activists allege that this was the first such tragedy of river pollution at Yamuna that claimed human lives. Earlier, there had been cases of only animals falling sick after consuming the toxic water. Wikimedia Commons

Green activists have gathered along the banks of the Yamuna demanding early clean up of the river, which is the lifeline for millions of people in north India.

The region was hit by a tragedy 10 days ago when hundreds of pilgrims on Braj Yatra were swept away while crossing the river in a pontoon bridge. The fragile plastic rope they were holding on to didn’t prove strong enough and many began to drown after a virtual stampede.

Though all the pilgrims were saved from drowning, many of them gulped down the toxic river water as they attempted to keep themselves afloat. While two pilgrims died later, hundreds had to be hospitalised and some of them are still under treatment at private hospitals.

Activists allege that this was the first such tragedy of river pollution that claimed human lives. Earlier, there had been cases of only animals falling sick after consuming the toxic water.

The state government, however, has denied the charges of negligence and of failing to prevent pilgrims from crossing the Yamuna.

Yamuna
Green activists have gathered along the banks of the Yamuna demanding early clean up of the river, which is the lifeline for millions of people in north India. Wikimedia Commons

“These pilgrims on a yatra tried to cross the river Yamuna on the Palwal-Aligarh border, holding on to a fragile rope that did not prove strong and many drowned after a stampede. Hundreds lost control and toop sips of the polluted water,” an activist told IANS on Monday.

“An alarm was raised and scores were hospitalised in Mathura, Vrindavan, Kosi and Naujheel for treatment. So far, two have died, many are still critical. The district administration and the police should be taken to task for allowing devotees to cross the river, when dangers were staring at the face,” he said.

More than 20 pilgrims are still in a serious state. An organiser of the yatra, led by Padamshri Ramesh Baba of Barsana, accused officials of the Haryana government, who had failed to repair the pontoon bridge in time.

Reports claimed that a plastic rope tied to tractors on both sides of the river was provided to support pilgrims for wading through the river.

“People of short height could not prevent water from entering their mouths. When one pilgrim was seen drowning, a number of them ran to rescue him. This resulted in a stampede,” a source said.

What is shocking for locals is the rank apathy of the administration.

“Today (Tuesday) being Yama Dwitiya, thousands of pilgrims will come for the special Yamuna bath,” the source added.

Yamuna
The state government, however, has denied the charges of negligence and of failing to prevent pilgrims from crossing the Yamuna. Pixabay

Neither the Yogi Adityanath government in Uttar Pradesh nor the local MP Hema Malini have addressed this problem of river pollution, despite repeated demands and assurances, agitated locals said.

The stink from the river causes nausea and puts off the pilgrims who choose to return to their hotels and dharamshalas for the ritual bath.

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The river is already dead in Vrindavan, declares Jagan Nath Poddar of the Friends of Vrindavan forum. With hardly any fresh water flowing, the stink at the ghats and the heaps of garbage are proving a nightmarish experience, the locals added.

The Yamuna river is regarded as very sacred by Hindus. (IANS)