Agra/Gokul: A movement launched by the ascetics and Sri Krishna devotees of the Braj Mandal to save the Yamuna river from pollution is now gaining momentum.
Hundreds of ascetics and activists have reached Sangam (confluence) at Allahabad from where a long march to New Delhi is to start Wednesday.
Chief organisers Radha Krishan Shastri and Jai Krishan Das said the march will reach the capital around April 15.
They said they will not withdraw till their demands are met and will talk only with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, President Pratibha Patil or UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi.
For the next 45 days, river Yamuna will remain in the focus as the march moves towards New Delhi via smaller towns and villages. By the time it reaches Agra, the organisers hope it will gain sufficient momentum.
This is the first time that the alarming pollution in the Yamuna has attracted so many people who look determined to set things right, said eco-activist Ravi Singh in Agra.
The Supreme Court, meanwhile has directed the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) to submit within three weeks reports of samples collected from the river, close to the drains, to get a clearer picture of the quality of water in the river.
"This could have serious repercussions and even put the Delhi government in the dock for failing to effectively tap the drains and discharge of industrial effluents in the river," D.K. Joshi, a member of the Supreme Court monitoring committee in Agra said.
Water samples analysed by The Energy and Resources Institute (TERI) researcher Swabha Takshak in Agra paint an extremely dismal picture.
"All the parameters, including turbidity and hardness are wrong," she said.
The results of samples she tested over a 30-day period pointed to an alarming level of pollutants.
Swabha Takshak, who carried out the study in May 2010, said: "The river is dead for all practical purposes. It is extremely polluted with every kind of pollutant imaginable, including toxins and carcinogens."
In an unprecedented display of solidarity with the movement, temples in Gokul were closed for two hours to protest pollution of the river Yamuna Monday.
In the evening, thousands of locals, high priests of the Sri Krishna, Baldeo (elder brother of Krishna) and Nand Baba (father of Sri Krishna) temples joined a footmarch along the bank of Yamuna with thousands of followers. Markets too remained closed.
"This surely ranks as the most impressive people`s protest against pollution of rivers," said Acharya Gopi Ballabh. For hours, people kept raising slogans "Yamuna Bachao, Pollution Bhagao" (Save Yamuna, Do away with pollution).
Residents of Gokul are particularly angry as a barrage constructed on Yamuna has distanced the historical banks of Gokul from the river.
"This is clearly a stupid example of engineering design. The river used to flow along the ghats (banks) but now the water has moved a kilometre away and pilgrims are being inconvenienced," said Vrindavan`s Acharya Jaimini.