UP forest department interrupts cleanliness drive on Assi Ghat
Varanasi: The cleaning work on Assi Ghat, initiated by Prime Minister Narendra Modi three days ago, was interrupted by the Uttar Pradesh Forest department officials stating that the use of machines in the process will adversely affect aquatic life in Tortoise Wild Life Sanctuary there.
'Jago Banaras', an NGO involved in carrying out cleaning drive at the Assi ghat, where Modi himself wielded a spade three days ago and urged the city's NGOs to clean the ghats within a period of one month in line with his Swacch Bharat Mission, expressed concern after being interrupted by the state wild life department on using cleaning machines.
The Kachhua (tortoise) Sanctuary is a seven kilometre-long stretch between Rajghat and Ramnagar in Varanasi in which tortoise, Gangetic dolphins and other aquatic species are found.
It was planned as a habitat in 1988 for endangered aquatic species and carnivorous tortoise were used as bio-pollutant removers.
"In the intervening night of Monday and Tuesday at around 1 AM, some half a dozen staff of the state wildlife and forest department here brought the cleaning work at halt and threatened workers that if machines would be used for removing silts, then they would be bound to take action against them and lodge an FIR in this connection," said Pradeep Kumar, co-convener of NGO 'Jago Banaras'.
"The cleaning work by machines was brought to a halt citing reasons that the use of machines will adversely affect the aquatic life in the sanctuary area," he added.
Sanctuary officials had, however, allowed the NGO workers to clean the silts manually and imposed restrictions only on the use of machines in the tortoise sanctuary area.
The matter was brought to the notice of Varanasi Municipal Commissioner Uma Kant Tripathi, who later gave permission to carry out the cleaning work using machines this afternoon.
Tripathi along with Varanasi Mayor Ram Gopal Mohale visited the Ghat this morning and enquired about the incident, following which the Sanctuary officials gave a written assurance to the NGO to restart their work this afternoon.
"Some people last night had asked the workers (engaged by an NGO for cleaning) to stop the cleaning work while they were removing the silt at Assi Ghat using Pokeland and JCB machines and threatened them not to use their machines for the work and had only allowed them to manually carry out cleaning work.
"We have given the NGO instructions to carry on with their work with all their required needs and they have even started their cleaning works in the afternoon by using the machines," Tripathi said.
Divisional Forest Officer (Chandauli), Manoj Sonkar said, "some staff of the Tortoise Sanctuary had objected to using machines in the cleaning drive at the Ghat. However, when the matter came to my knowledge, we immediately asked the NGO to carry on with their work."
On November 8, Prime Minister Narendra Modi began work, with a spade in hand, to clean Ganga river at the Assi Ghat in his constituency Varanasi. He had also challenged Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav to take the task forward.