Local environmentalists on Wednesday again voiced their opposition to the Uttar Pradesh government’s move to reduce the eco-sensitive zone limit around Sur Sarovar or Keetham Lake from ten km to just 250 metres.
In an unanimous resolution passed at a conference held at Youth Hostel Hall in the city, the green brigade warned of dangerous consequences of what it called a suicidal step.
"The eco-sensitive zone acts as a buffer for the Taj Mahal against toxic gases released by Mathura Refinery. The green belt has halted the march of desert towards Agra. The dense forest also filters dust-laden westerlies going towards Taj Trapezium Zone," the resolution contended.
The green activists have been holding meetings and staging dharnas for the past 10 days ever since Divisional Commissioner Pradip Bhatnagar asked District Magistrate Pankaj Kumar to forward to the state government a proposal to reduce the forest area on the Agra-Delhi national highway.
"The issue has been examined. Keetham lies in the TTZ area where polluting units are already banned. There is no need for (imposing) unnecessary limits which may further enhance the arbitrariness of forest authorities," Bhatnagar said.
The Taj Trapezium Zone (TTZ) comprises 10,400 sq km around the Taj Mahal to protect the monument from pollution. Over 40 protected monuments – including World Heritage Sites of the Taj Mahal, Agra Fort and Fatehpur Sikri – come under the zone, named so since it is located around the Taj Mahal and is shaped like a trapezoid.
Union Environment and Forests Minister Prakash Javedkar last week assured a delegation of eco-activists that the state government’s proposal would be studied by a panel of experts and only then a final decision taken, Sur Sarovar Van Kshetra Bachao Samiti president Goswami Murari Lal Sharma said.
The minister agreed to review the circumstances under which the limits of the famous Sur Sarovar bird sanctuary and Ramsar wetland at Keetham was sought to reduced to 250 metres, said Devashish Bhattacharya, a member of the delegation.
While those who have purchased land for industries or multi-storeyed apartments in the area are happy, the greens are incensed over the "unwise" decision of the district authorities.