Agra, Aug 21 (IANS) Once described as one of the ‘dirtiest cities’ in India, Agra now ranks 16th in the list of the top 20 cities with a population above ten lakh .
The list was released by the Union Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs on Thursday as part of the ‘Swachh Survekshan 2020’ campaign.
From 85th in 2019 to 16th in 2020 is a huge leap for Agra, said mayor Navin Jain. In Uttar Pradesh, Agra now stands next to Lucknow.
“The progress seems dramatic if you recall that in 2017 Agra ranked 263rd in the list,” said social activist and vice president of the Braj Mandal Heritage Conservation Society, Shravan Kumar Singh.
The news was greeted with celebrations in the Agra Municipal Corporation offices. Sweets were distributed and union leaders organised fireworks in the evening. The new Municipal Commissioner Tikaram Phunde and the Mayor Navin Jain were garlanded.
Municipal officers and the elected corporators expressed their resolve to work for the number one position in 2021. Presently, the second phase of the survey is in progress. Two more phases remain for which the corporation has already started gearing up, according to the Commissioner.
The Agra Municipal Corporation has distributed 9.5 lakh dustbins for segregation of garbage at the source. The huge mountain of garbage in the Kuberpur landfill site was flattened and developed into a lush green garden.
A local Corporator Anurag Chaturvedi said, “Continuous monitoring and hard work by the safai karamcharis and the involvement of social activists has paid off.”
Sandeep Agarwal, president of the India Rising, an NGO, that has been organising cleanliness drives since 2015, said the consistent sensitisation of the citizens towards the importance of community cleanliness has worked and now a perceptible change was visible in several newly developed urban clusters.
But conditions are now beginning to change.
More than 16,000 public toilets have been built. The city has been declared open defecation free. New garbage collection centres have been opened and door to door collection of garbage has been started in several colonies.
Agra generates around 700 tonnes of garbage daily. But the Municipal Corporation does not have adequate facilities for processing the garbage or transferring it to the landfill sites across the Yamuna.
The River Connect Campaign members Dr. Devashish Bhattacharya, Jugal Kishor Pandit, Ranjan Sharma, Chaturbhuj Tiwari, Rahul Raj, in a statement urged the Agra Municipal Corporation to take river cleaning as a top priority in 2021. Till all the drains opening into the river are diverted and the river bed cleaned, Agra’s steady march to number one position will not be smooth, they added. The Yamuna flows through the city for more than 20 kms and on its banks stand the most magnificent Mughal monuments visited by millions of tourists round the year, added river activist Harendra Gupta.
The long march to the number one position has to work on some concrete proposals pending before the local authorities for a very long time, said Agra Development Foundation secretary K.C. Jain.
The Yamuna River activists in a memorandum circulated on Friday demanded that the haphazard growth of urban clusters not compatible with the heritage be stopped immediately. Encroachments around the monuments have to be permanently demolished. Construction activities in the Keitham forest areas must be suspended, they demanded.
The memorandum also said: “Restriction on registration of vehicles has become necessary. Automobiles are the chief source of air pollution. Only those who have garages or parking slots should be allowed to purchase four wheelers.”