Activists demand heritage status for Yamuna


Agra : A people’s conference attended by social activists, environmentalists and intellectuals Thursday demanded that Yamuna river be accorded a world heritage status by the Unesco and the Indian government.

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“For long we have sought piecemeal solutions to pollution-related problems of this river and tonnes of money has flown down its dirty waters through various plans and schemes. The time has now come when the whole river system, right from Doon Valley to Sangam in Allahabad, be recognised as a heritage asset and conserved in its totality,” said Surendra Sharma, president of the Braj Mandal Heritage Conservation Society, at the conference.

Yamuna, with a total length of over 1,300 km, is considered one of the most polluted rivers in the world.

“State-wise plans should make way for a composite strategy to tackle the pollution problem,” said Sharma.

The people’s conference heard reports from groups about the latest pollution levels in the river.

“The substance of all the data-gathering exercises over the past year is that the river water is no longer fit for human consumption and that even aquatic life, several species of fish, tortoises and gharials had become victim of pollution in the river,” said environmentalist Ravi Singh.

A resolution adopted at the conference demanding the heritage status said: “One can’t think of Radha-Sri Krishna without Yamuna, nor would the story of the Taj Mahal be complete without Yamuna which Shah Jahan’s architects considered as an integral part of the Taj complex. Along its banks came cities, monuments, trade and commerce, the Braj culture flourished, poets like Surdas enriched culture.”

Remco Santen, an Australian, who founded the My Clean India initiative that got Nainital cleaned up of garbage through voluntary effort last year, said in his email message that sensitisation and awareness activities involving the citizens could go a long way in making Indian rivers pollution free.

A suggestion to involve the armed forces to clean up the river Yamuna was also discussed.

“The pollution problem in the river has now taken such a dimension that individual efforts of NGOs can make no dent. You need organised agencies with resources and equipment to address the issue. The government of India can consider asking the army to help in this,” the resolution said.