River activists oppose yet another dam on Yamuna in Haryana

Yamuna already drying up in Agra.
Drying Yamuna River. Image courtesy: IANS

Agra: River activists of Agra, Mathura, and Vrindavan have protested against the proposed dam on Yamuna river, close to Hathni Kund, in Yamuna Nagar district by the Haryana government.

River Connect Campaign member Devashish Bhattacharya said, "Already the Yamuna in Agra is in a dying state due to heavy pollution and lack of freshwater. Another dam on it would only compound the problem, posing a great risk to the historical monuments, including the Taj Mahal."

The Haryana government has proposed a new dam to control floods. An official said a meeting of four states would discuss the modalities soon. On the instructions of the Haryana Chief Minister Manohar Lal, who had visited Yamuna Nagar sometime back, the officials of the Haryana state irrigation department and local administration visited the site for the dam, a few kilometres upstream of the Hathni Kund barrage, two days ago.

The land has been identified for the Rs 4,000 crore project, it was claimed. The acquisition process has already begun.

The protesters in Agra said the real purpose was to divert water for irrigation in Haryana. "After 1978, there has been no major flood in the Yamuna, though the water level has crossed the danger mark several times," said Goswami Nandan Shrotriya, of the Sri Mathuradheesh temple on the riverbank in Agra. If ever there was a need for a barrage on the Yamuna, it was here in Agra downstream of the Taj Mahal, but successive state governments have been dragging their feet and delaying the project for no specific reason, he added.

Pandit Jugal Kishore said, "Already there are four dams or barrages: Tajewala, Wazirabad, Hathni Kund, Okhla and Gokul barrage in Mathura in a stretch of around 400 km. To keep the river alive and save aqua life, there should be an uninterrupted minimum flow in the river. But upstream barrages have held back all the water in the river. What downstream cities like Agra get is only sewage, industrial effluents, and all the domestic waste...Agra's own contribution to increasing the pollution load in the Yamuna is substantial through over a hundred drains.

Jagan Nath Poddar of Braj Vrindavan Heritage Alliance warns that any effort to reduce the flow of water in the river will prove an eco-disaster. Haryana has not heeded the directives of the NGT. The Delhi government too has failed to check Yamuna pollution.

The dry Yamuna has failed to meet the water needs of Agra city. The city is now dependent on the 165 kilometres long Ganga Jal pipeline from Bulandshahr district.

"But you need water to keep the river alive and provide support to the historical buildings that are sited on its banks. The Yamuna is not just a water body but also a religious entity for the Hindus. You just can not kill a river like this," said angry river activists Rahul Raj, Deepak Rajput, Chaturbhuj Tiwari and others.

The campaigners said they would mobilise the whole city and raise public awareness in the coming days. They have plans to meet the elected representatives to sensitise them and seek their support to stall the proposed dam in Haryana.

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