Early Friday Taj city residents were in for a shock when they turned on their water taps and a dark, muddy stinking liquid came out. Alarmed, many telephoned the Agra Jal Sansthan (water utilities department) officials, but no satisfactory explanation came forth.
"I am not aware about the incident. But I will get the water samples tested. As there is hardly any water left in the Yamuna, the dark water could be due to upstream release of pollutants, dyes or sewer into the river," B.B. Awasthi, regional officer, UP Pollution Control Board, told IANS.
Jal Sansthan officials, however, said that although the supply water was dark in colour, it was "safe" for consumption.
Rajiv Rathi, environment officer, Agra Municipal Corporation, said: "People are dumping everything into the Yamuna. What we are getting down here is all effluents. People dump waste into the river all the way from Delhi to Agra as if the river doesn't belong to anybody."
He added that no fresh water is released into the river downstream of Delhi. "The treatment plants that we have here are outdated. We need the advanced reverse osmosis-based technology," Rathi said.
B.B. Maheshwari, a leading physician of the city, said the incidences of typhoid have increased alarmingly, especially among the adults. "The disease had almost vanished from the city, but now it has returned with a vengeance," he said.
For the past 10 days, the water supply in the city is not only inadequate in terms of quantity, but its quality is also unfit for human consumption, according to Susan Jaison, head of the chemistry lab at St John's College here.
The tests carried out by the lab have confirmed that on all major parameters the Yamuna water is not only unfit for humans but also potentially dangerous for the aquatic life.
The problem, according to Jal Sansthan officials, has increased because the fresh water supply to the river from the Harnal Escape on the Ganges canal has been stopped.
Due to this, the water utilities department is using huge quantities of alum, chlorine and bleaching powder to clean the water, according to a official.
"The river is dead. It's a huge sewage canal. How much can you treat and clean sewage to make it potable," said activist Anand Rai.
"They (the government) want big projects to attract tourists, but are not interested in solving the basic problems of the people," said Shravan Kumar Singh of Braj Mandal Heritage Conservation Society.