SC's Intervention Positively Impacted Taj City's Environment: Green Activists

(MENAFN- IANS) By Brij Khandelwal
Agra, June 5 (IANS) The 'Green Activists' of the Agra city on Monday said that the cumulative impact of dozens of pollution abatement measures at the intervention of the Supreme Court (SC) has made Taj city environment cleaner.
The Apex Court on the recommendations of a high-powered experts committee headed by Dr S Vardarajan, had in 1993, ordered a series of measures, including shutdown of all polluting industries in the Taj Trapezium Zone which is spread over 10,400 sq km.
Also, while more areas were brought under the green cover, the industries were told to switch over to natural gas or shift to other places, and coal burning was strictly banned.
Other measures, as an impact of the PIL filed by eco lawyer MC Mehta, included restrictions on diesel-run vehicles, use of LPG cylinders for cooking, uninterrupted power supply, etc. And now, after 25 years, the results are for everyone to see.
"First, there was resistance to changes. But then hesitant steps were taken towards transformation and adoption to new gas-based technologies by the iron foundries and the glass industries of Firozabad. These steps positively made a huge difference to the working conditions in factories and helped the environment," says green activist Prashant Kaushik.
Environmentalist Devashish Bhattacharya said that before the private discom Torrent Ltd took over distribution of power in Agra, the city suffered massive outages of supply forcing use of diesel generators for long hours at shops and in residential complexes.
"The situation has changed. Now the people occasionally use generators, inverters or even stabilizers and UPS. After 2012, the city's power supply has changed for the better. Generator manufacturers have had to shut down their units for want of demand," the environmentalist said.
He said that grey spots are there but there is a silver lining as well.
"The city was once described as the dirtiest place in the world. Now, any visitor who visits is amazed to see the slew of changes that have transformed the city's skyline," Bhattacharya said.
The most discernible transformation has been in the transport sector, with many more electric vehicles on the roads.
Social activist Padmini Iyer said that over a hundred sleek electric buses crisscross Agra roads, ferrying people from one part to the other.
"The number of battery-operated rickshaws run into thousands, while the auto-rickshaws have been forced to switch over to CNG. Fuel-efficient vehicles are in demand these days. This changing trend has helped improve the overall quality of air and people could feel it during those nightmarish Covid-19 days. For several months in a row this year, the AQI in Agra has remained green," the social activist said.
Mukta, a resident of Agra, returned to her home town recently after three years. She said that the city's profile has changed drastically following the G20 Summit.
"Vertical gardens, green crossings, open spaces all along the Kheria airport to Shilpgram route with painted walls and functioning traffic lights along the tourist complex in Fatehabad road have come up," Mukta said.
She said that she found the newly developed Chaupati in the Taj Nagri green zone particularly fascinating.
"Work on the Metro is in full swing and once this facility is available, there would be considerable improvement in the traffic flow within the city," Mukta said.
Social activist Anand Rai of the India Rising said that Agra being a city of monuments, has large green spaces like Taj Mahal, Taj Nature Walk, Mehtab Garden, Shah Jahan Park, sprawling golf course, Sikandra, Etmauddaula, heritage corridor along Yamuna River, urban green forest along the boundary of Agra Fort, and Dayalbagh area.
He said that the upcoming colonies also have a lot of green spaces which will not only absorb pollutants but will also be a soothing treat to the eyes.
Financial Consultant Sudhir Gupta said that the SPM level, NO2, and SO2 levels are within the stipulated standard parameters and only RSPM level and fine particles in the ambient air remain high in the Agra city.
"The traffic jams in some parts and the bad roads are affecting the quality of air but solutions are on the anvil. A Greater Agra project is ready and so is the riverfront development project," Sudhir Gupta said.
He said that if you compare the figures with 1995 data or even 2001, there is a world of difference.
"The Yamuna Expressway and the Agra Lucknow Expressway, along with bypasses encircling Agra, are a significant improvement in the general environment. However, the steady growth of vehicles on the roads, due to increased affordability, neutralizes the gains made," Sudhir Gupta said.
The Archaeological Survey of India and the Agra Development Authority have worked on a number of projects to make tourist mobility safer and better.
Meanwhile, the Agra Municipal Corporation headed by Commissioner Ankit Khandelwal has left no efforts to streamline the garbage collection system, cleaning of open drains, and development of more civic facilities.
However, the road to graduating to a real Smart City is still long and arduous in terms of expectations.



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