Minutes before Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal and Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia arrived at Hathi Ghat at ITO Sunday to inspect preparations for Chhath Puja, sanitation workers were seen cleaning waste from the banks of the Yamuna.
At least 1.5 lakh people are expected to pour out on the banks of the ailing river to offer their prayers to the setting sun Tuesday evening. Kejriwal said an additional 114 ghats would be available for Chhath Puja celebrations this time, of the total 128 ghats in Delhi.
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Sanitation workers were seen pulling out plastic, cloth and other waste from the river Sunday afternoon while the Hathi Ghat was being cleaned and prepared for the celebrations. They also erected wooden barricades a few metres from
the river bank to prevent worshippers from stepping too deep into the river.
Despite the banks being cleaned, the contaminated water remained a dark shade of grey and gave off a stench that was hard to miss. “Fresh water will be released from the Munak Canal in Haryana and in a day or two this (contaminated) water will flow out. There will be clean water for performing the puja,” said Kejriwal.
Signs urging people to avoid throwing offerings into the river were also being put up at the ghat. In January, the National Green Tribunal (NGT) had issued an order that a fine of Rs 5,000 would be imposed on anyone found throwing various items in the Yamuna, including religious offerings.
“It is true that people should not throw anything in the river. Cleaning the river is the government’s responsibility but to keep it clean is also the responsibility of citizens. Preparations for Chhath Puja are in full swing and it will be our endeavour to provide all the necessary facilities to the people,” said Kejriwal.
A senior official said that while NGT orders were binding, religious customs were a “sensitive” issue and the government could only request people not to release anything into the river, including puja offerings.
“The place will be secured with CCTV cameras and we will have enough personnel from both the police and the irrigation and flood department to ensure that the celebration goes on smoothly. We are also making the necessary arrangements for effective crowd management,” said a government official.