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Ahead of Trump’s visit, Indian city of Agra cleans the swamp

AGRA: In the city of Agra, authorities are on a clean-up drive, including the polluted waters of the Yamuna river, that backs on to the monument complex. – File photo

LUCKNOW: US President Donald Trump vowed to “drain the swamp” of lobbyists and elites in Washington DC. Now, one Indian city is racing to clean up a stagnant river as he prepares to visit. Trump arrives in India on Feb 24 on a maiden two-day trip that aims to repair bilateral relations hurt by a trade spat. He plans to visit the western city of Ahmedabad and India’s capital New Delhi, as well as Agra, where he will view the famed monument to love, the Taj Mahal, at sunset.

In the city, authorities are on a clean-up drive, including the polluted waters of the Yamuna river, that backs on to the monument complex. Jal Singh Meena, an officer with the Agra Ganga Nahar, the government body that manages the canal network that feeds into the Yamuna in Agra, said yesterday an additional 17 million liters of water are being released from three locks in the week preceding Trump’s visit on Monday- more than double the usual amount.

The extra flow had been ordered “to keep it clean and remove the foul smell,” he told Reuters. Yesterday, workers scrubbed walls and fountains at the monument, commissioned in 1632 by Mughal emperor Shah Jahan in memory of his late wife Mumtaz, TV channels showed. India’s best-known attraction, the Taj Mahal is visited by nearly seven million tourists a year, according to official data, but has been blighted by overcrowding and pollution.

Along with polluted water, authorities are battling some of the world’s filthiest air that stains the white marble of the monument, and increasingly aggressive troops of monkeys that have been known to attack visitors. District authorities have denied local media reports they have relocated some of the more troublesome primates for the visit, and that a bridge on a proposed route taken by Trump will be unable to bear the weight of his armor-plated limousine known as “The Beast”.

India will not rush into a trade deal with the United States, an Indian foreign ministry spokesman said yesterday, days before US President Donald Trump’s visit. The two sides have been trying to narrow differences over tariffs and US demands for greater access to India’s poultry and dairy markets.

“We do hope to reach an understanding with an outcome that strikes the right balance for both sides. These are complex negotiations. We would not like to rush into a deal,” foreign ministry spokesman Raveesh Kumar told reporters. – Reuters

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