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Yamuna reduced to sewer canal again

Times of India, New Delhi, October 13, 2014


Thousands daily pack the ghats in Vrindavan, Mathura, Agra and Bateshwar for a holy dip in the Yamuna during this month of Kartik. But most come out with curses due to the stink from dead fish and froth of detergents in the polluted waters. Kartik month is considered holy by Hindus, particularly devotees of Lord Krishna. But the spiritual ambience has been hit hard with the Yamuna reduced to a vast sewage canal. Naturally, this has caused frustration among the devotees. Neither Uma Bharti, the water resources minister, nor Hema Malini, the local MP, have addressed the issue despite repeated assurances. A poor monsoon has hit the Yamuna.


This time of the year, the river should be in spate a la 2013. But it is dry, throwing up islands. Last year, the flooded Yamuna washed away the accumulated pollutants that were an ugly eyesore and caused health hazards. This year, it has been a tragic story. The lifeline of many cities, the Yamuna has been again reduced to a sewer, thanks to pollutants discharged by industrial clusters upstream of Vrindavan, mainly in Delhi and Haryana. This has killed aquatic life. The river is drying up as the Ganga canal system is closed for 20 days to allow for the annual cleaning of that river. After Sharad Poornima, thousands of pilgrims congregate for a holy bath in Mathura to mark Kartik and other celebrations. But the water quality is so bad that every few days one hears of dead fish floating on the surface or getting swept to the banks. The stink causes nausea and puts off the pilgrims who choose to return to their hotels and dharamshalas for the ritualistic bath. Last year, on three different days, thousands of fish were found dead in Mathura and Agra. "This has now become an annual feature.


Tortoises have been killed and poached. You hardly have any fish left in the river. Those that manage to survive are picked up by unauthorised fishermen," says eco-activist Ravi Singh in Agra. The river is already dead in Vrindavan, declares Jagan Nath Poddar of the Friends of Vrindavan forum. "With hardly any fresh raw water flowing, the stink at the ghats and the heaps of garbage are proving a nightmarish experience." In Mathura, the Vishram Ghat and the Bengali Ghat are in poor shape. "The Gokul Barrage has proved a disaster as it was only storing the sewer waste and industrial effluents flowing from Delhi and Haryana," said a panda. Complains Madhu Mangal Shukla, an activist at Vrindavan: "Even after crores of rupees have been spent on cleaning the Yamuna, it appears this is just another white elephant.


The river remains as polluted as ever. "No one is doing anything ... Proof that total indifference has set in is that there have been no YAP (Yamuna Action Plan) meetings for months, when monthly meetings were to be held." Activists told Uma Bharti recently that the Gokul Barrage had not proved useful. The barrage now contributed to the increase of communicable diseases. Hema Malini has had a series of discussions with the ministry officials and conveyed to them the sad plight of the Yamuna. Frustrated activists and river lovers are mobilising support for a long march to Hathini Kund in Haryana from November 2. Jai Krishn Das, convener of the Yamuna Rakshak Dal which will spearhead the march, said hundreds of thousands of pilgrims who visit shrines in this region were pained to see the condition of the Yamuna.