Staff Reporter

NEW DELHI: Activists campaigning to save the Yamuna are critical of the former National Democratic Alliance Government for allegedly paving the way for destruction of the river’s flood plains and of the present United Progressive Alliance Government for continuing with the devastation.

Angry over the Government’s failure to save the Yamuna and its flood plains, these activists who are part of the Yamuna Satyagraha have now drawn up a charter of demands for protection of the river.

“We are facing climate change and melting glaciers; our rivers are going to rise and need floodplains to contain that water. If you build on that area, there will be floods and destruction,” said Vandana Shiva of the Citizens’ Front for Water Democracy while addressing the media on Wednesday.

Pointing out that the NDA Government’s decision to allow construction of the Akshardham temple along the Yamuna flood plains was a “blunder” that paved way for more “destruction of the flood plains”, the activists said they would not allow the Commonwealth Games Village to come up on the proposed site.

“Even NDA convenor George Fernandes has accepted that Akshardham was a mistake,” Ms. Shiva said.

“In Europe, embankments along major rivers including the Danube are being removed because they are known to cause floods. But in India we are going ahead with full-fledged construction,” she added.

The activists have drawn up an eight-point charter that demands “maintaining the integrity of the floodplains, changing the site of the Games Village, and stopping construction of malls, Metro depots, hotels, multi storey apartments and heliport”.

Justice for farmers demanded

The activists have also demanded “justice for the farmers who were displaced during the construction of the Akshardham temple, justice for the slum dwellers uprooted on the grounds of protecting the river, protection of the wetlands as ecological zones for hydrological functions and organic farming, stopping the cutting of trees and release of 10 cumec of water by Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, Rajasthan and Delhi for recharge of the river and a white paper on the expenditure incurred for cleaning the Yamuna.”

“The farmers who were evicted from the land for construction of the Akshardham temple had managed to get a stay order from the court, but the Government managed to go ahead with the construction. Those farmers have not even been compensated,” said Supreme Court advocate Prashant Bhushan.