Agra, April 18 (IANS) With the summer setting in, residents of this Taj city are reeling under a severe water and electricity crisis. Demand for water has gone up due to the rising mercury and residents are struggling with long power outages. Besides, around 1.8 million tourists, both domestic and foreign, visit Agra every year.
The business community has vowed to launch a campaign against private distribution company Torrent Power for failing to follow a Supreme Court directive on uninterrupted electricity supply to the city.
"They promptly destroyed Agra's industrial base to save the Taj Mahal from pollution but failed to honour the apex court directive on power supply. Every time there is a power outage, thousands of diesel generators are switched on, raising the pollution levels," said Mathuresh Kumar, an industrialist from Foundry Nagar.
Agra's National Chamber of Industries and Commerce has decided to write around 100,000 postcards to the Supreme Court in the next few days to highlight the city's electricity woes, a member said.
Thousands of tonnes of potatoes stored in the cold storages on the outskirts of the city could also rot due to the erratic power supply.
The Agra Cold Storage Owners' Association has written to Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav asking him for uninterrupted electricity supply to prevent such a situation from arising.
Members of various traders' associations have regularly been staging demonstrations at the Torrent offices.
"The situation is grim. Technical glitches and unannounced load-shedding are the order of the day," said Sandeep Arora, a city-based hotelier.
"It's a challenge to keep the tourists comfortable these days as the city is struggling for power and water," akesh Chauhan, president of the Agra Hotels and Restaurants Association, told IANS.
"During summer months, the inflow of domestic tourists goes up and they are unfortunately the worst sufferers," Chauhan added.
On the water front, the century-old Agra Jal Sansthan (AJS) is struggling with the maintenance of the decadent pipeline network.
"We depend entirely on the Yamuna water which is processed and made potable. But when the river is dry and the supply is restricted, there is little we can do to meet the growing demand of the city," an AJS official said.
The total water demand in the city is around 320 million litres per day, which increases considerably in summer, the official added.
Thousands of handpumps installed at public places have become redundant as the water table has gone down steeply, activist Naresh Paras said.
"The state government appears confused on how to address these problems. Sometimes they plan for release of water into the Yamuna from the Ganga, while sometimes they speak about diverting water to Agra from Chambal. They have so many projects but none is workable," said Surendra Sharma, president of the Braj Mandal Heritage Conservation Society.
(Brij Khandelwal can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)