Vrindavan, 2017.01.06 (VT): The dismantling of the unfinished pillars of the so-called half-moon bridge at Keshi Ghat began on Tuesday.
The bridge’s construction began in 2009 under the Mayawati government. It was meant to run down the middle of the Shri Yamuna River, to allow cars to drive around Keshi Ghat. Instead of the gorgeous view of the sacred river, worshippers at Keshi Ghat would have had a busy, honking overpass in front of them during Yamuna aarti. This outraged the devotees of Vrindavan around the world. Protests and a court case resulted in a halt to construction. But the pillars have remained for years as a heartbreaking eyesore.
Now the Uttar Pradesh State Bridge Corporation has been given the task
of dismantling the pillars. In fact, the UP government made the decision to dismantle the eleven pillars of the bridge in September of last year. The cabinet decision was celebrated as a strategic win for the Yamuna activists, to protect the ethos of the series of Yamuna Ghats in Vrindavan. The contract was then awarded to R.D. Contractors of Gaziabad.
Shri Rajneesh Choudhary on behalf of the company said that the total contract amount for the dismantling work is 89 lakh rupees (131,000 USD) and the project will be completed within 40 days.
What really doomed the “half-moon bridge” was its proximity to a monument protected by the Archeological Society of India, the Yugal Kishore Temple. The project fell within the distance of 107 meters from the monument. According to the Ancient Monuments and Archeological Sites and Remains Act, no construction activity can be carried out within a 100-meter radius of ASI protected monuments. And for work within the next 200 meters, special permission is required, which was never obtained or even sought.
The Braj Vrindavan Heritage Alliance, a civil society organization objected to the project, expressing that the bridge would permanently obstruct the view of the iconic Keshi Ghat and other ghats. Moreover, it feared that the construction of the bridge would push the flow of the river further from Keshi Ghat, the only ancient embankment where Yamuna still touched (until very recent times when she was taken away by further illegal construction).
The BVHA then resolved to send Madhumangal Shukla to the High Court to challenge the government’s decision of building the elevated road in the midst of the river. After hearing the counsel of Shukla, the High Court stayed the work – a stay which was later recinded on the grounds of a false affidavit submitted to the Court by the Divisional Commissioner of Agra. The commissioner claimed that the bridge was being built across the river, not through the middle of the river. Nevertheless, the construction of the bridge could never resume after that. The ASI refused to grant permission and the government had to change the design of the project and plan for a bridge that would cross the river.