There was a time when people in Agra would flock to the Yamuna banks during the monsoon to watch the river dance in whirlpools or the muddy water form ripples and loops. Or kids would come to watch tortoises lazily floating. Now the heavy pollution level in the water is keeping everyone away.
The river is in spate, flowing full after copious rains during the past two months upstream and offers a fascinating spectacle against the background of the Taj Mahal. But the number of swimmers and divers has gone down drastically due to reports of heavy pollution caused by discharge of effluents and sewer wastes.
People do not want to catch fish from the river any more, fearing the pollution could hamper their health.
The Yamuna ghats vanished during the Emergency in 1975-77 when the late Sanjay Gandhi ordered the demolition of temples and ghats to make way for a Chowpatty (Mumbai)-like river front to attract people.
Since then the 10-km river front right in the heart of the city has been left a huge wasteland.
To add to it, the Uttar Pradesh government had a five-foot tall wall constructed to obscure the view from the main Yamuna Kinara road.
"Now you can't see the river. To add insult to injury the Jal Nigam without permission has laid a five-foot diameter water pipeline along the river bank, turning into an ugly spectacle the once beautiful river that brought Mughals to the city," Rajiv Saxena, a senior mediaperson, said.
For the tourists however, watching the Yamuna in spate at the rear of the Taj Mahal is an unforgettable experience. Right till the Mehtab Bagh across the river where Shah Jahan, according to guides, planned to construct a black replica of the Taj, there is only water and dense green cover beyond.
"But the debris of the controversial Taj Corridor project between the fort and the Taj is such a depressing and ugly sight that foreign tourists avoid moving along the river front," said Surendra Sharma, president of the Braj Mandal Heritage Conservation Society.
"When the tourists look towards the Taj from the Agra Fort, the ill-conceived Corridor which is turning into an unofficial graveyard with heaps of dirt and garbage is such a put off," said Sharma.
Though the river offers a pretty sight nowadays, the people of Agra have long forgotten its beauty and look at it merely as a sewer that brings diseases and pollution.
"What should have been a protected heritage of the country has been reduced to a river, if one can call it that, of sorrow and misery, and unfortunately no government agency, commission, pollution board, department or NGO has been able to arrest the rot," lamented Pandit Ashwini Mishra.