Agra, March 25 (IANS) Hundreds of activists, students and senior citizens walked along the banks of the bone-dry river Yamuna in Agra Sunday in a symbolic rally to highlight the grave threat to the Taj Mahal from a dry river bed.
They also resolved to continue their campaign till the governments in Lucknow and Delhi announced a concrete and time-bound programme to save the dying river.
The rally came on the concluding day of the World Water Day week.
"Wake Up, Agra" president Shishir Gupta told IANS: "The march has been organised to send out a strong message to the powers that be that the Taj Mahal is indeed in danger. The dry river, reduced to a virtual sewage canal, is carrying toxic material and highly polluted water that is eating into the foundation of this magnificent 17th century structure. If no steps were taken urgently, the Taj could be in real danger."
The march was joined by half a dozen organisations and citizens' groups to sensitise people towards the water problem, polluted rivers and streams, disappearing ponds and the generally lax attitude of the Uttar Pradesh Pollution Control Board officials towards polluters.
"The river is indeed in a very bad shape, hardly recognisable. We have long been demanding heritage status for the Yamuna which is a rich treasure of culture, architecture, Sri Krishna-Radha lore, golden period of history, arts, navigation and just about everything that makes for a civilised society," said Surendra Sharma, president of the Braj Mandal Heritage Conservation Society.
"The Yamuna in Agra is without water, and right at the rear of the Taj Mahal, it is stinking nullah," said Shravan Kumar Singh, an eco-activist.
Shravan Singh added: "We have sent a petition to Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav with ten demands. We want a barrage downstream of the Taj Mahal, and dismantling of the controversial Taj corridor. The Supreme Court has already asked the Forest department to green it. But resource crunch is proving to be a major hurdle. The Yamuna urgently needs a war-like operation to de-silt and dredge the river bed to open up the aquifers that are choked due to polythene and chemicals wastes discharged by industries in Delhi and Haryana."
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