Agra, March 3: Thousands of activists Sunday blocked the national highway to Agra protesting against the government’s apathy to save the river and the historic Taj Mahal here.
The protestors were seeking release of water into the river to save the Taj Mahal, which is being impacted by high concentrations of dust particles and toxic gases.
Thousands of marchers who left Vrindavan Friday moved from Chata to Kosi where they were scheduled to camp Sunday night. Several charitable trusts and ashrams gave food and water to the marching protestors. “Our morale is very high and we will return only after water is released from Hathini Kund,” said chief organiser Ramesh Baba.
Activists in Agra urged the central government to use armed forces personnel to help civilians clean the river from Delhi to Agra. “The armed forces have trained manpower and equipment to clean up the river with dredgers and excavators. The river bed needs to be scrubbed to open up choked aquifers, and this can only be done by machines,” said Surendra Sharma, president of the Braj Mandal Heritage Conservation Society.
Environmentalists and activists highlighted the continued neglect of the river, which had shown no improvement even after the launch of the second Yamuna Action Plan.
They said that “open drains in Delhi were still emptying dirt and sewage into the river. No effective strategy had been put in place to contain water pollution in Delhi. The downstream cities have to suffer because of the three barrages in Delhi”.
The activists demanded construction of low cost and effective decentralised water treatment plants to ensure that no waste water or effluents entered the Yamuna without treatment and proper maintenance and monitoring of existing sewage treatment plants along the river bank.
Among their demands were banning the use of insecticides and pesticides by farmers on the banks of the river and removing the ban on lifting sand and silt from the river bed.