UN-supported clean air action plan for Agra questioned

Agra, June 4 (IANS)
Green activists on Tuesday criticized an action plan launched here to control air pollution in Agra, one of India’s most polluted cities and home to the Taj Mahal, for ignoring the contribution of the Yamuna river to the present mess.
The Clean Air Action Plan was launched with a lot of fanfare and hype on Saturday but failed to convince local activists of its effectiveness and approach. Experts say that air pollution has stunted the growth of tourism sector in Agra.
“They failed to note that all Mughal monuments that attract the tourists were sited along the Yamuna’s banks. And a dry polluted river cannot only foul up the ambience but prove a threat to the survival of these precious heritage assets,” a group of environmentalists said ahead of the World Environment Day on June 5.
Agra is notorious for heaps of garbage that are openly burnt, illegal colonies and structures in reserved forest areas and large-scale construction on Yamuna’s flood plains, a meeting held along the Yamuna was told by green activists.
They said the chief contributors to the air pollution in Agra were the dry river bed and the westerly winds from the neighbouring Rajasthan desert that bring tons of dust, raising the SPM (suspended particulate matter) level in the Taj Trapezium Zone, spread over 10,400 sq km.
The Saturday launch of the action plan was attended by Uttar Pradesh Chief Secretary Anup Pandey, senior officials of the union Ministry of Environment and Forest as well as UN representatives.
A clean Air Action Plan was adopted for Agra.
Pandey admitted that while noxious gas emissions were under control, it were the alarming levels of SPM and RSPM that were a challenge.
The Action Plan covers vehicle emission control, suspension of road dust, emission control such as biomass, crop residue, garbage and municipal solid waste burning, industrial emissions, air pollution from construction and demolition activities and monitoring of air quality among others.
Officials claimed that Agra’s tourism industry had been hit hard due to high air pollution which had caused hurt to the Taj Mahal.
Green activists Ranjan Sharma and Shailendra Singh Narwaar told a meeting on Tuesday that till the Yamuna river was cleaned and filled with water, all 12 months, “no strategy to fight air pollution will succeed”.
Devashish Bhattacharya, an environmentalist, blamed the authorities for failing to protect the eco-sensitive Taj Trapezium Zone’s green cover and water bodies from encroachment.
“Instead of green, the dominant colors all around are grey and brown. If they are serious about controlling air pollution in Agra, they must not only clean, desilt, dredge the Yamuna river but ensure expansion of the green cover.”

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