By: Rajgopal Singh
Eleven members of the Yamuna Muktikaran Abhiyaan (YMA) have started a fast unto death on Saturday at Jantar Mantar demanding that the Centre ensures the “free and natural” flow of water in the river.
Thousands had marched to Delhi from Kosi (Braj) on March 15 as part of the Yamuna Muktikaran Padyatra under the banner of YMA.
Union Minister for Water Resources Uma Bharti had met a delegation of the YMA. “But she only made hollow promises. She barely knew about the issue,” Ravi, a member of YMA, said.
A YMA statement on Saturday said, “The immediate need is to allow fresh natural water to be released from Hathini Kund barrage. This water should be allowed to flow through the entire stretch of the riverbed to maintain its ecological flow.”
Pankaj Baba, one of the leaders of YMA, said, “ What we are demanding is urgently needed to save the river from extinction.” The organisation is also demanding a complete ban on any kind of sewage disposal into the Yamuna.
Another major demand is the the construction of a canal alongside the river in Delhi to carry all treated and untreated sewage to Agra canal. “Currently, the Delhi stretch of the river is used more like a sewage canal. This must stop,” Baba said.
The National Green Tribunal in the past had made a slew of recommendations to clean the river. According to the YMA, their demands find reflection not only in the NGT order, but also in orders issued by the Central Pollution Control Board and a high-power committee on eco flow in the river.
“Even after orders from these institutions, nothing has been done. Strong and determined political will is lacking,” Baba said.
This is not the first time that the YMA has marched to Delhi with its demands. In 2013 too it had undertaken a similar march to Delhi. But the government stopped the march near Faridabad and assured the group that it would consider its demands.
“Union ministers Sushma Swaraj and Ravi Shankar Prasad had raised the issue vociferously at that time. But now they are silent,” Sharad Baba, another YMA leader, said.
So far, the protesters have not got any assurance from the government. The protest was scheduled to reach Delhi on March 22, but it was advanced to March 20 to catch the attention of Parliament as its session is on. “They are sending rockets to other planets to search for water. Here, a river is dying and nothing is being done,” Raj Sharma, who took part in the march, said.