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Save Sri Krishna’s Braj Bhoomi From “Development Sharks”

Mathura, 14 August: Developmental activities, governmental and private are threatening the tranquility and wild beauty of Sri Krishna-land spread over around 200 kms. centering Mathura. Like the numerous holy ponds associated with Sri Krishna legend, the dozen dense forests of Braj disappeared long ago, and now it is the turn of the Yamuna ghats in Vrindavan.

Multi-storied buildings have come up in Mathura, Vrindavan, Goverdhan. Almost all great and popular saints of India are now opening their Ashrams and guest houses. Land is scarce. Farms and gardens are being sold to raise concrete structures. Vrindavan's skyline is fast changing, says Acharya Jaimini, a musicologist.

A new bridge coming over Yamuna in Vrindavan has come in for sharp criticism from environmentalists who see it a threat to the only remaining ghat in Vrindavan.

Local eco-activists are concerned the new bridge will pose a danger to the Kesri Ghat, and obscure the magnificent panoramic view of the river and also affect the flow of the river.

"Keshi Ghat, which happens to be the last Ghat of Vrindavan from where river Yamuna flows through, is being endangered," says Sri Vatsa Goswami of Friends of Vrindavan.

Mathura Vrindavan Development Authoritys plan to link the dis-connected portions of Vrindavan Parikrama Marg by constructing a bridge across River Yamuna would  seriously affect the flow of water in Yamuna along the banks in Vrindavan, feel the local residents.

The livelihood of hundreds of boatsmen is also endangered as the free flow of boats across the Yamuna would get hindered. Keshi Ghat remains the only boating spot in Vrindavan. This architectural wonder was constructed by the Rani Laxmi of Bharatpur.

Swami Sewak Sharan, an environmentalist and Sri Krishna bhakt says "they are destroying nature and culture. Ordinary folks in Vrindavan have no voice while the so called "developmentalists" are out to murder a rich heritage."

Several other activists and religious leaders have now raised a protest against the construction of the bridge. The holy town of Vrindavan is in the clutches of land developers and real estate giants who are on a building spree. "Mayawati will have a bad time if she plays with Yamuna. She should not forget what happened after the Taj Corridor project on Yamuna in Agra," warns a local media person.

A foreign bhakt has already purchased a huge heritage property. The construction of this bridge is not going to help the bulk of pilgrims as they tread on foot on the Parikrama Marg. This bridge would increase the quantum of traffic plying down the Parikrama Marg and would cause major obstruction to the pilgrims.

The only ghat in Vrindavan through which the river Yamuna flows through is also being deprived of its heritage value by constructing a bridge across the ghat. This bridge is supposed to link up the two part of the Parikrama marg. The entire photographic and scenic value of this heritage structure remains threatened after the construction of this bridge. Due to the construction of this massive concrete structure there is also a great threat that the river would drift away from the lone heritage ghat of Vrindavan.

Since there is no urban art or landscape body to study developmental projects, the government agencies feel what they have planned is "for the good of all." The development of Parikrama Marg is stalled for the moment due to want of clearance for laying the sewer pipes beneath. The Parikrama marg design is completely out of sync of pilgrim convenience. The pedestrian zone has been confined to a single walking track which is grossly insufficient for the bulk of pilgrims who undergo Parikrama of this sacred township barefoot.

Mathura-Vrindavan Development Authority vice chairman RK Singh categorically denies all the charges which according to him have been raised by people who do not understand development or environment. "They are obstructionists. We have got proper studies done. The Keshri Ghat was any way crumbling. The bridge is a little distance away from the ghat. Pointless controversies are being raised by environmentalists," Singh added.

PWD chief engineer CD Rai said "vested land owning interests were protesting, many calling themselves environmentalists. The bridge on the river does not affect environment in any manner, nor does it obstruct the flow of the river. We will later take renovation work of the Kesri Ghat."

The ugliest eyesore in the whole Braj area is the sorry spectacle of a dying river Yamuna, dry, polluted and encroached upon. Ramesh Baba, 76 year old renowned activist working for eco-conservation of Braj Mandal, has appealed to pilgrims and devout in Vrindavan to save a dying river which was "again in the grip of Kali Naag in the form of industrial effluents and sewer waste flowing down from Delhi and Haryana. We are living and the river is dying."

Ramesh Baba, patriarch of Barsana gaon, (Birth place of Sri Krishna's beloved Radha) has been fighting for 40 years to save the holy hills of Braj from land and stone mafia, the stone crushers. "We have had to fight at the local level, the High Court and the Supreme Court, and only now have we got some relief in the form of a ban on mining in the Braj hills. But unless the faith-fuls, the Sri Krishna bhakts and nature lovers united and got involved in massive tree plantation, renovation of holy ponds and a thorough cleansing of the river Yamuna, the dangers will not diminish," Ramesh Baba said.

Each year millions of Sri Krishna bhakts from all parts of the world visit the Braj Bhoomi, but neither the hundreds of Katha Vachaks from Vrindavan, nor the "bhakt jans" bother to spare a thought for saving the ecology of the area which once had 12 dense forests and numerous ghats along the river whose water the founder of the Mughal dynasty described as better than nectar, says Vrindavan's Acharya Jaimini Tringunaneet.

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