Environmentalists demand stricter enforcement of laws on Holi

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Agra, March 22 (IANS) Ahead of Holi celebrations, green activists of Agra have demanded effective steps by the Agra Municipal Corporation to ensure that environmental pollution on Holi was minimised through the use of eco-friendly colours and firewood.

In a memorandum to the municipal corporation chief the activists demanded the promotion of the use of “Gau Kashth” — briquettes made from cow dung, hay and saw dust.

“The general trend is to chop branches of trees on a large scale and use them for burning ‘Holika’ (the holy bonfire). People have been piling up all kinds of garbage, plastic, polythene, leather cuttings from shoe factories, household waste, used clothes, on the Holika which is set on fire around midnight,” said environmentalist Devashish Bhattacharya.

Another big problem is that these “Holikas” are lit up on main road crossings.

“The coal tar also gets burnt and leaves huge scars on the roads. These potholes are rarely filled promptly. Some people also burn used tyres. Clearly, the administration has to stop all this,” said green activist Padmini Iyer.

Each year the green cover in the eco-sensitive Taj Trapezium Zone was shrinking. Lakhs of saplings planted during the rainy season hardly survive for want of care.

“The green cover in Agra is hardly nine per cent. The national policy guideline is 33 per cent. For Holi, burning hundreds of trees is assaulted both in urban areas and rural hinterland. We must educate our people and provide them alternatives,” added ‘River Connect’ Campaigner Jugal Shrotriya.

A rough estimate of the number of Holikas set on fire in Agra city is more than a thousand.

“If an average of 10 quintals of firewood is burnt, one can calculate the damage and loss,” said Chaturbhuj Tiwari.

In the rural areas, people generally use cow dung cakes and Vilayati Babool branches, but in urban areas, since firewood has become exorbitantly expensive, people choose to burn all the trash and waste available. This releases large quantities of noxious gases into the atmosphere, the activists said.

They appealed to the administration to campaign and create awareness to sensitise people to the hazards of pollution. By using alternative materials like organic waste, the emission of harmful pollutants can be contained.

The state pollution control board should continuously monitor and enforce regulations. The corporation should immediately clean up and fill up the potholes on the roads created by Holika Dahan. People should also be encouraged to use eco-friendly colours and gulal, the activists suggested.

Already the air pollution level in Agra is very high. Recent reports suggest that despite a slew of measures after the historic Supreme Court verdict in 1993 to save the Taj Mahal from pollution, there has not been any significant change in the air quality or the pollution level in the city.



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