Clean Yamuna march to Delhi to begin Friday

By Brij Khandelwal, IANS,

Mathura : It’s yet another bid to draw attention to a dying and polluted river that not just sustains life in the Braj region but is also a heritage treasure and a religious symbol for millions of Indians.

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At least “100,000 bhakts (religious devotees)” will turn out for a 10-day march to Delhi that begins from here Friday to demand that the river Yamuna be cleaned up.

While the Mathura district authorities have drawn up elaborate plans to manage the traffic and the influx of activists from all parts of India, the organisers say traffic would be confined to one carriageway of the extremely busy National Highway-1 that links this city to the national capital.

At the Chatikara starting point, a tented township has come up to lodge tens of thousands of activists. Mathura’s Jai Gurudev ashram has also joined the movement and taken the responsibility of feeding the activists. A huge dais has been readied at Chatikara site to hold a Yamuna conference before the march begins. The Bhartiya Kisan Union (Bhanu group) has mobilised thousands of farmers to join the march.

The demands include the release of a minimum quantity of water into the Yamuna round the year from the Hathini Kund barrage, some 100 km upstream of New Delhi, and effective checks on drains in the national capital that dump pollutants, effluents and sewer waste into the river – literally turning it into one huge drain.

For the past one year, scores of NGOs and groups of sadhus and babas have been actively mobilising support for the march in the hope of awakening the powers that be.

“The polluted water that flows in the Yamuna is not fit for human consumption. It’s also a threat to agriculture and is poisoning our underground reserves,” said Ashwini Mishra, an activist in Agra who began the clean river movement in June 2008.

The river has been reduced to a huge sewage canal, said Ravi Singh, another green activist in Agra. “If we do not wake up now, tomorrow will be too late,” he added.

Shravan Kumar Singh, vice president of the Braj Mandal Heritage Conservation Society said: “The polluted Yamuna is being seen as a major threat to the Taj Mahal also, because its foundation is being affected by the toxic waters.”

‘Wake Up Agra’ president Shishir Bhagat took out a rally two days ago to mobilise support for the Yamuna clean-up efforts.

Vrindavan and Mathura, as also Goverdhan and Barsana, are full of posters and banners appealing to the people to join the march to save their life-line.

Yamuna has been the repository of arts, culture, architecture, history and the Hinduism’s Bhakti movement. Yamuna activists say millions of rupees have gone down the gutter in the two Yamuna Action Plans which have not made any discernible change to the river system that sustains life and agriculture affecting millions of people in the three states of Haryana, Delhi and Uttar Pradesh.

The Supreme Court has expressed its extreme displeasure that despite the creation of a Yamuna Development Authority and Rs.12,000 crore (over $2 billion) having been spent, the river has been reduced to a drain and its waters are unfit for drinking or even bathing.

(Brij Khandelwal can be contacted at [email protected])