Death of a river: How general apathy has killed Yamuna



By Shilpika Srivastava

National Green Tribunal (NGT) has asked the Delhi government, Delhi Jal Board, every municipal corporation, electricity companies and all other civic authorities to collect environment compensation from every household for spawning sewage waste in Delhi, on a Polluters Pay Principle.

The green panel’s announcement has again made the entire issue of Yamuna’s pollution a hot potato.

Who and What of NGT

The National Green Tribunal was established in 2010 under the National Green Tribunal Act 2010 for effective and prompt disposal of cases relating to environmental protection, conservation of forests and other natural resources. A specialized body outfitted with the necessary expertise, NGT handles environmental disputes involving multi-disciplinary issues.

Just a few days back, the tribunal had put a ban on disposing all kinds of waste into the Hindon canal, and termed its pollution as a ‘serious concern’. The order was issued following a petition filed by a Vasundhara Enclave resident in Delhi, who complained of municipal waste, construction waste and building trash being dumped into the canal resulting in huge water and air pollution.

Last month, NGT imposed a fine of Rs. 5,000 on openly burning waste such as garbage, leaves, plastics and crop residues.

There were many more steps taken by the tribunal to curb almost every kind of pollution, like a ban on diesel vehicles in Delhi, halt on construction activity in Noida, prohibition of plastic usage and so on. Strong measures taken by NGT have not only made it an environmental champion, but also exposed how the government has not been effective at addressing environmental concerns.

Where is Goddess Yamuna?

Every time one passes by Yamuna bridge, Goddess Yamuna is absent, but a blanket of froth, tons of flower garlands, bodies of animals, black poisonous industrial waste floating shamelessly over the river bed is visible.

Where is the scent of fresh water? Where is Yamuna’s sweet taste that the folklores of India mention?

Hitherto, India has followed a somewhat straightforward approach to clean up its rivers. It has acted on the conjecture that preventing pollution is enough to restore the river. In keeping with this approach, India has set up effluent and sewage treatment plants, which clean up waste water before it is released into the rivers. The outcome of the crores of funds spent show how this approach has failed miserably.

Indians, who bow their heads and ask for a wish when passing by a river, are the least aware or interested ones when it comes to preserving the very same rivers. Their ‘chalta hai’( casual) attitude or ‘we have it on our Shahstras (Holy books)’ are undoubtedly taking a toll on the environment.

Death of a river

Facts suggest that, as Yamuna passes through Delhi over a 48-km stretch, it is welcomed by garlands of chemical waste and toxins. A few months back, the Central Water Commission (CWC) declared that Yamuna, as it flows through Agra, is given an added burden of almost 50 times more Biochemical Oxygen Demand (BOD) than the permissible limit. The commission also warned that water in the river, which is now polluted beyond repair, is also contaminating ground water.

Reportedly, the Okhla barrage, 22 km downstream of Wazirabad barrage, is considered the most polluted segment of River Yamuna.

Yamuna, which has an annual flow of about 10,000 cubic metres and usage of 4,400 cubic metres, accounts for more than 70% of Delhi’s water supplies. The national capital discards almost 60% of its waste into the river. The industrial effluents have worsened the problems making Yamuna a black and stinky drain.

No doubt, numerous steps were taking by the government, various NGOs and environmentalist, but all in vain. As long as the people are not involved in the process, Yamuna cannot be preserved. Neither government’s measures nor NGT imposing environment compensation on the residents can save the sacred river.

  • Absolutely right. You have concluded it right that its in our hand to save our sacred rivers.