With a No Objection Certificate (NOC) received from the National Environmental Engineering Research Institute (NEERI), the decks have now been cleared for siting a rubber check dam 1.5 km downstream of the Taj Mahal.
Divisional commissioner and chairman of the Taj Trapezium Zone, S Gupta, said that all the required clearances has now been received and work could begin shortly. The Archaeological Survey of India, the Central Water Commission, and other statutory bodies have already cleared the project.
The Yamuna barrage project, whose foundation stone was laid twice by former Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister ND Tiwari and ex- Governor Romesh Bhandari, has been hanging fire for over three decades.
The Yogi Adityanath government has already cleared the Rs 350 crore project to be sited at Nagla Prema. However, instead of a regular barrage, the state irrigation department has opted for a rubber check dam, which will have unique features.
Members of the River Connect Campaign said: “We had been campaigning hard for over a decade, the Almighty has answered our prayers.”
Environmentalist Devashish Bhattacharya said: “The rubber check dam, after tapping 90 odd drains that open into the urban segment of the river, will go a long way to revive a dying river. All the Mughal monuments along the Yamuna’s bank need moisture for safety and aesthetic appeal. Water in the river will drastically bring down the air pollution level in the city, as also help raise the water table in the city. In future, it would be possible to ferry tourists in boats from the Taj Mahal to Etmauddaula or Ram Bagh.”
Green activists like Pandit Jugal Kishore, Deepak Rajput, Chaturbhuj Tiwari, Nidhi Pathak welcomed the development and hoped that the construction work would soon begin. “It is now for the nine BJP legislators and three MPs to follow up and speed up the project so that the cost component remains under control,” Nandan Shrotriya, priest of the Sri Mathuradheesh temple, said.
However, activists have demanded that the government agencies undertake a massive desilting and dredging operation to scoop out pollutants from the river bed, before the barrage construction work begins.
A rubber check dam is usually built on a firm RCC foundation with inflated balloons holding back the flow of water. The air filled balloons can be deflated to let out surplus water, when required.
“The costs are lower and the time taken is also much less than the normal barrage,” a retired civil engineer said. It’s a flexible rubber structure that can be inflated for water conservation, flood control, and to regulate the flow of the river. The balloons can be deflated to flush out sand deposits.
The first rubber dam of India is in Vizianagaram district of Andhra Pradesh over the Jhanjhavathi river. Kerala too has a couple of similar dams. However, what is not technically clear is whether the proposed rubber dam on the Yamuna would be technically feasible and succeed in fulfilling the objectives.