Patna: People perform rituals on the banks of the Ganga river on the occasion of Ganga Dussehra in Patna on the first day of the fifth phase of the nationwide lockdown imposed to mitigate the spread of coronavirus, on June 1, 2020. . Image Source: IANS News

Agra/Mathura/Vrindavan, June 20 : As thousands of Shri Krishna devotees celebrated Ganga Dussehra, which marks the appearance of the Ganga river on Earth, groups of river activists in Agra, Mathura, and Vrindavan resolved to impart momentum to their efforts to save the Yamuna river, the lifeline of the Braj Mandal.

In Agra, members of the River Connect Campaign circulated a memorandum repeating demands for cleaning of the river bed and construction of the barrage downstream of the Taj Mahal.

Environmentalist Devashish Bhattacharya reminded Union Minister Nitin Gadkari of his promise to start a ferry service between Agra and Delhi and several assurances by other ministers including UP Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath to restore the pristine glory of the river Yamuna.

Activists Jugal Kishore, Rahul Raj, Deepak and others said rivers in India were dying because of urban sewage being directly discharged into them.

Bhattacharya said that "according to a recent CPCB report most of the sewage and waste water sludge generated by urban clusters was being discharged in the rivers without treatment. An alarming 72 per cent of sewage goes into rivers untreated".

In Vrindavan, members of the Braj Vrindavan Alliance met at the Brahmar Ghat to discuss ways to rejuvenate Yamuna.

Acharya SriVats explained the importance of river Yamuna and lamented its present plight. The members resolved to meet every month to work on strategies to pressure the government agencies to speed up cleaning up efforts.

Activist Akash Vashisht said that the Yamuna could be saved only if a minimum round the year uninterrupted flow of water was assured. Friends of Vrindavan convener Jagan Nath Poddar said encroachment son the flood plains of Yamuna had to be demolished and the whole area along the bank cleared of illegal structures. The green cover in Vrindavan had to be increased through systematic afforestation work.

Poddar said: "Our volunteers have been successful in cleaning up the holy Mansarovar pond during the pandemic lockdown. More local people should join the efforts to restore the glory of Braj area that draws millions of Sri Krishna devotees from all over the world." In Mathura, sustained efforts of the Yamuna Mission have started showing encouraging results. Led by Pradip Bansal, a prominent businessman, a team of dedicated workers have cleaned up the Gau Ghat which had been buried under dirt and sludge. The whole stretch has been transformed into a verdant green patch.

"Earlier people used to avoid the Yamuna ghats, as the squalor and the stink were unbearable. Our efforts in the past few years, using machines to dredge the river bed along the bank, has made a world of difference. The water is cleaner and people are being attracted to take bath, swim and conduct pujas and other rituals," Bansal said.

The transformation of the river bank is no less than a miracle, say the locals who throng the Kans Kila area which was once lost to garbage heaps and sewage.

"Today, it is an attractive pilgrim spot visited by thousands daily," local activist Pavan Gautam said.

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