Dead fish on Yamuna River Image Credit: Screengrab

Mathura/Agra: After thousands of fish were found dead in the Yamuna, in Mathura and Vrindavan on Friday and Saturday, devotees and pilgrims blamed official agencies for failing to keep the river clean.

Hundreds of thousands of devotees visit Mathura on Diwali, for the special puja of Goverdhan and Yamuna, the latter said to be sister of Yamraj, the Hindu god of death.

“As I entered the water for a holy dip, I was put off by the stink of rotting fish all around,” said Pradeep Bhai, a pilgrim from Gujarat.

An Uttar Pradesh Pollution Control Board official in Mathura said that untreated waste water and industrial effluents had been discharged upstream, resulting in fish dying of oxygen depletion.

Activists blamed the Okhla Barrage authorities for releasing untreated water without a warning in advance.

In Vrindavan, thousands of fish were seen floating in the river.

“The whole area around Keshi Ghat, visited by thousands of pilgrims daily, is stinking and no one has come to clean up the area,” complained Jagan Nath Poddar, convener of the Friends of Vrindavan group.

In Agra, hundreds of activists joined the River Connect Campaign’s river cleaning exercise on Sunday.

“We want the people of Agra to participate in cleaning the river which is heavily polluted with reported mass fish deaths upstream of Agra,” Devashish Bhattacharya, an environmentalist, told IANS.

Lifeline

Yamuna is the lifeline of the Braj Mandal area and sustains tourism in Agra region.

“All historical buildings are located along Yamuna’s banks. If the Yamuna is sick and polluted, architectural marvels like the Taj Mahal cannot remain unaffected,” said Ranjan Sharma, another environmentalist.

Ahead of Diwali, which falls on November 7, people usually clean their homes but dump the garbage on the river bank, which is already sees numerous idol immersions, said Shravan Kumar Singh of the Braj Mandal Heritage Conservation Society.

Activists Jyoti Vishal and Padmini said cleaning of the river will continue with passion and of seriousness, and involve students.

“You cannot leave the cleaning of public places to government employees. Each one has to be responsible for his share of garbage. People have to be taught to segregate and dispose the waste in designated places,” said an activist, Harendra Gupta.