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Death of a river: How general apathy has killed Yamuna

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yamuna-pollution

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.

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Water Quality of River Ganga Gets improved Amidst Nationwide Lockdown

The lockdown has done what other government projects could not do for the Ganga

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Ganga
The water quality of the Ganga river in Uttar Pradesh has improved considerably in cities like Varanasi and Kanpur. Wikimedia Commons

The national lockdown to check the spread of Covid-19 has thrown up something to smile about. The water quality of the Ganga river in Uttar Pradesh has improved considerably in cities like Varanasi and Kanpur.

Dr P.K. Mishra, Professor at Chemical Engineering & Technology, IIT-BHU, Varanasi, said that there has been 40-50 per cent improvement in quality of water in the Ganga.

This is primarily because factories along the river bank that discharged effluents into the Ganga have been shut due to the lockdown and this has naturally improved the water quality. Kalika Singh, regional officer of the Uttar Pradesh Pollution Control Board (UPPCB) in Varanasi said: “The dissolved oxygen level upstream in river Ganga is 8.9 mg per litre while downstream, the dissolved oxygen level is 8.3 mg per litre. This clearly shows that water quality has improved significantly, and it is good for bathing. Healthy water should have a dissolved oxygen level of at least 7 mg/litre.”

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Singh said that during the lockdown period, the air quality in Varanasi had also improved.
“The roads in Varanasi are completely deserted because people are inside their houses and all vehicles are off the roads. Those engaged in essential services can only be seen in the city with their vehicles. Due to this, the air quality has improved in the city,” he said.

The Ganga enters Uttar Pradesh in Bijnor district and passes through major districts such as Meerut, Bulandshahr, Aligarh, Kanpur, Allahabad, and Varanasi. In Kanpur too, the Ganga waters are cleaner.

Gangaa
Dr P.K. Mishra, Professor at Chemical Engineering & Technology, IIT-BHU, Varanasi, said that there has been 40-50 per cent improvement in quality of water in the Ganga. Wikimedia Commons

A priest at the famous Parmat temple in Kanpur, said: “The major cause of water pollution in Kanpur is the toxic industrial waste which is discharged into the river. Since all the factories are closed due to the lockdown, the Ganga river has become cleaner. The priests at the temple earlier used to refrain from taking a holy dip because the water was highly contaminated. However, since the past week, we are bathing in the river.”

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The Sisamau drain which used to discharged millions of litres of dirty water into the river was completely tapped last year under the Namami Gange project. This has also brought down the water pollution but the improvement being witnessed at present is unprecedented.

The lockdown has done what other government projects could not do for the Ganga. (IANS)

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River Ice Cover Declines Rapidly due to Global Warming: Study

Global warming behind river ice cover loss, said a recent study by environmentalists

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Ice cover global warming
River ice cover will decline by about six days for every one degree Celsius increase in global temperatures, leading to economic and environmental consequences. Pixabay

River ice cover will decline by about six days for every one degree Celsius increase in global temperatures, leading to economic and environmental consequences, says a new study.

According to the study, published in the journal Nature, more than half of Earth’s rivers freeze over every year. These frozen rivers support important transportation networks for communities and industries located at high latitudes.

Ice cover also regulates the amount of greenhouse gasses released from rivers into Earth’s atmosphere, the study added.

“We used more than 400,000 satellite images taken over 34 years to measure which rivers seasonally freeze over worldwide, which is about 56 per cent of all large rivers,” said the study’s lead author Xiao Yang from the University of North Carolina, US.

“We detected widespread declines in monthly river ice coverage. And the predicted trend of future ice loss is likely to lead to economic challenges for people and industries along these rivers, and shifting seasonal patterns in greenhouse gas emissions from the ice-affected rivers,” Yang said.

River ice cover
Ice cover regulates the amount of greenhouse gasses released from rivers into Earth’s atmosphere. Pixabay

The researchers also looked at changes to river ice cover in the past and modelled predicted changes for the future.

Comparing river ice cover from 2008-2018 and 1984-1994, the team found a monthly global decline ranging from 0.3 to 4.3 percentage points.

According to the researchers, the greatest declines were found in the Tibetan Plateau, eastern Europe and Alaska.

“The observed decline in river ice is likely to continue with predicted global warming,” the study explained.

For the future, the research team compared expected river ice cover through 2009-2029 and 2080-2100.

the study’s findings showed monthly declines in the Northern Hemisphere ranging from 9-15 per cent in the winter months and 12-68 per cent during the spring and fall.

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The Rocky Mountains, northeastern US, eastern Europe and Tibetan Plateau are expected to take the heaviest impact, the study said.

“Ultimately, what this study shows is the power of combining massive amounts of satellite imagery with climate models to help better project how our planet will change,” said study researcher Tamlin Pavelsky. (IANS)

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Activists Gather Along to Demand Cleaning of River Yamuna

Activists allege that this was the first such tragedy of river pollution that claimed human lives

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Yamuna
Activists allege that this was the first such tragedy of river pollution at Yamuna that claimed human lives. Earlier, there had been cases of only animals falling sick after consuming the toxic water. Wikimedia Commons

Green activists have gathered along the banks of the Yamuna demanding early clean up of the river, which is the lifeline for millions of people in north India.

The region was hit by a tragedy 10 days ago when hundreds of pilgrims on Braj Yatra were swept away while crossing the river in a pontoon bridge. The fragile plastic rope they were holding on to didn’t prove strong enough and many began to drown after a virtual stampede.

Though all the pilgrims were saved from drowning, many of them gulped down the toxic river water as they attempted to keep themselves afloat. While two pilgrims died later, hundreds had to be hospitalised and some of them are still under treatment at private hospitals.

Activists allege that this was the first such tragedy of river pollution that claimed human lives. Earlier, there had been cases of only animals falling sick after consuming the toxic water.

The state government, however, has denied the charges of negligence and of failing to prevent pilgrims from crossing the Yamuna.

Yamuna
Green activists have gathered along the banks of the Yamuna demanding early clean up of the river, which is the lifeline for millions of people in north India. Wikimedia Commons

“These pilgrims on a yatra tried to cross the river Yamuna on the Palwal-Aligarh border, holding on to a fragile rope that did not prove strong and many drowned after a stampede. Hundreds lost control and toop sips of the polluted water,” an activist told IANS on Monday.

“An alarm was raised and scores were hospitalised in Mathura, Vrindavan, Kosi and Naujheel for treatment. So far, two have died, many are still critical. The district administration and the police should be taken to task for allowing devotees to cross the river, when dangers were staring at the face,” he said.

More than 20 pilgrims are still in a serious state. An organiser of the yatra, led by Padamshri Ramesh Baba of Barsana, accused officials of the Haryana government, who had failed to repair the pontoon bridge in time.

Reports claimed that a plastic rope tied to tractors on both sides of the river was provided to support pilgrims for wading through the river.

“People of short height could not prevent water from entering their mouths. When one pilgrim was seen drowning, a number of them ran to rescue him. This resulted in a stampede,” a source said.

What is shocking for locals is the rank apathy of the administration.

“Today (Tuesday) being Yama Dwitiya, thousands of pilgrims will come for the special Yamuna bath,” the source added.

Yamuna
The state government, however, has denied the charges of negligence and of failing to prevent pilgrims from crossing the Yamuna. Pixabay

Neither the Yogi Adityanath government in Uttar Pradesh nor the local MP Hema Malini have addressed this problem of river pollution, despite repeated demands and assurances, agitated locals said.

The stink from the river causes nausea and puts off the pilgrims who choose to return to their hotels and dharamshalas for the ritual bath.

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The river is already dead in Vrindavan, declares Jagan Nath Poddar of the Friends of Vrindavan forum. With hardly any fresh water flowing, the stink at the ghats and the heaps of garbage are proving a nightmarish experience, the locals added.

The Yamuna river is regarded as very sacred by Hindus. (IANS)