Stop the Keshi Ghat Flyover - Save Vrindavan
before January 10th
BY: SUN STAFF
Jan 02, CANADA (SUN) Over the last few weeks, we have received numerous submissions, including news updates, photographs, maps and artwork depicting the Indian Government's latest effort to spoil the landscape of Vrindavan by building a 'flyover' bridge at Keshi Ghat. While interest in the Holy Dhama has greatly increased due to all the preaching inspired by Srila Prabhupada under the banner of Lord Caitanya's global Sankirtana movement, one of the by-products of Vrindavan's popularity is that car culture is quickly descending upon it. As we begin 2010, we are not only seeing the dire consequences of pollution and excavation of holy sites, but also a horrific increase in building development around Vrindavan. And now, the government seeks to improve road access, so even more cars can deliver pilgrims, tourists, customers, and cash.
On December 25th, a few hundred devotees, most from the religious community in Vraja, gathered at Keshi Ghat to protest building of the bridge. Several maths and asramas were represented, and various notorieties spoke on the need to stop the flyover, and save the Holy Dhama from the sure degradation brought on by an increased flow of cars.
The flyover bridge has been designed to loop around the ancient ghat so cars can make a complete tour around Vrindavan, thus turning the Parikrama Marg into a tourist's circle-round.
Manmade sandbar bisecting the Yamuna River
Until recent years, the Parikrama Marg remained a natural, sandy trail that circled the central Dhama, including Banke Bihari, Radha Vallabh, Radha Damodar, Govindaji temples. But more and more of the parikrama grounds have been paved, and parking lots now line the roads, blocking the view of the beautiful Yamuna River to the south.
Keshi Ghat was the last remaining area of the Parikrama Marg that remained car free, but even this last green space is about to be ruined. The Mathura-Vrindavan Development Authority (MVDA) is the governmental entity responsible for building the flyover, a bypass that will bridge the two ends of the parikrama path. We can be seen in the pictures below, the ugly concrete structure is already ruining the landscape, and this will made all the worse when thousands of loud, pollution-belching trucks, cars and buses begin their daily intrusion into the Holy Dhama.
Pillar with historic Keshi Ghat in background
The government's decision makers and bridge builders didn't bother consulting with the local spiritual community, who PWD Chief Engineer C.D. Rai called the "vested land owning interests". MVDA Vice Chairman R.K. Singh brushed their concerns aside, saying they "neither understand development nor the environment." This sort of dismissive attitude is typical of 'powers that be' who are executing one part of a larger political plan. And that is the rest of story….
The Keshi Ghat flyover is but one part of an ambitious project – a new superhighway being built from Noida, just east of Delhi to Agra. The project is in high gear, as part of the preparations for the 2010 Commonwealth Games. The Taj Expressway, or the 'Yamuna Expressway' is said to run along the Yamuna's southern bank of the Yamuna, but in fact, that Yamuna curves all along her path. A bridge is being built across the Yamuna as part of an access road that joins the new highway to Vrindavan.
Another new road has already been built, connecting Mathura Road to the Bhaktivedanta Marg, with a flyover across the railroad tracks to the west. The extension to intrude at Keshi Ghat was envisioned by planners who saw the ring road as a fitting continuation of the overall Vrindavan access route. One blog poster describes it thus:
"What the planners decided was that the ring road made a perfect continuation of this access to the town itself, but did not solve the problem of congestion in the town itself by outside traffic. What they are doing, in effect, is creating a ring road that will go around the entire town, using the Parikrama Marg wholesale for that purpose. That way, traffic going to the very busy northeast corner has several points of access.
Since the highway is running basically to the south of the town, the access point they chose was the most logical, because it is the closest. To build a bridge further along the Yamuna would mean expropriations of land as well as a lot of new construction (in their wisdom they have already paved most of the Parikrama Marga and opened it to vehicular traffic)...."
Urgent and Immediate Assistance Needed to Stop the Bridge
Construction of the bridge is moving quickly, and the Keshi Ghat is under imminent threat. Immediate and urgent assistance is needed from all Vaisnavas around the world. Devotees from all the sampradayas must act cooperatively and decisively on this issue.
The Yamuna Vrindavan Heritage Foundation has been established in Vrindavan, with Padmanabha Goswami and K.D.S. Gill as its principal officers. The group is developing its constitution and website, and has begun work to stop the Keshi Ghat flyover. They are currently working with UNESCO to get Vrindavan status as a world heritage site, and will go on to advocate for the protection of all Vrindavan and Yamuna heritage sites. This work will take our continued cooperation.
Today, however, the most pressing need is to prepare a petition in time for a Supreme Court hearing on January 10th, at which the court will decide whether or not the moratorium on construction will be upheld.
Vrindavan Acarya Chandan Goswami has described the previous effort leading up to the current moratorium:
"We have been protesting since day one and asked everyone to join with us. Sad to say all the gurus agree that this construction is wrong, but no one wants to protest against it. In a couple of days we are having a meeting with Satish Chandra Mishra, who is the second strongest person of the state because of whom Vrindavan got the package of reinnovation.
According to the law of the archeological department of India, the area up to 100 metres from a monument is designated as a prohibited area and up to 200 meters as a regulated area.
"No development is permitted within 100 metres of any monument preserved by the State Archaeology Department or by the Archaeology Survey of India."
There is a Jugal Kishore Temple which is situated on the back side of Kesi Ghat. [I assume he means that this is designated as a monument.] Because of this law now we have made them stop the construction work and filed the FIR against them.
Pillar with historic Keshi Ghat in background
JP Group, the contractor, has called back his project manager and half of the labor has left. Now three things can happen:
1. Either they make bridge after 300 meters radius which will make this bridge far from Kesighat.
2. Or they can stop the work altogether.
3. Or they can work on our idea which we have proposed to them.
The result will be out in few weeks as we are taking serious actions against them."
While time is short, Chandan Maharaj has proposed the goal of getting 100,000 signatures on a petition prior to the Supreme Court hearing on January 10th. To accomplish this, we need EVERY ONE OF YOU to assist. Please, regardless of all the petitions you have or have not read and signed up to now, please take this moment to sign the petition:
Keshi Ghat - Before
CLICK HERE TO SIGN THE PETITION
Keshi Ghat - After
You can contact the Yamuna Vrindavan Heritage Foundation at firstname.lastname@example.org.
We will provide more information on this issue in the week ahead here at the Sampradaya Sun.
Photos courtesy of Vishaka and Damayanti devis @ Facebook.
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