Wednesday June 26, 2019
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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.

Next Story

Cambodia’s Government To Shut Down A Chinese-Owned Hotel, Suspect To Water Pollution

Overhead footage shot with a drone camera clearly shows a large stream of discolored water snaking through the beach behind the resort and spilling into the sea.

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A screen grab from a video shows an aerial view of what appears to be sewage streaming out of the Sunshine Bay Hotel and Casino on Koh Rong Samloem Island. RFA

An environmental watchdog on Thursday called on Cambodia’s government to shut down a Chinese-owned hotel and casino for pouring raw sewage into the sea off of the coast of the popular resort town of Sihanoukville, following the closure of another on the same island last month.

In a video posted to Facebook, Mother Nature activist Meng Heng said the Sunshine Bay Hotel and Casino is severely polluting the water off of the southern tip of Koh Rong Samloem Island’s Independence beach.

Overhead footage shot with a drone camera clearly shows a large stream of discolored water snaking through the beach behind the resort and spilling into the sea.

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“If we find out they are violating the laws [against polluting the environment], we will ask them to correct the situation,” Pixabay

He noted that the sea near the hotel and casino has “an unusual odor and color to it,” adding that as one approaches the perimeter of the property “we will be left in no doubt as to why this part of the beach receives no tourists.”

While Meng Heng acknowledged that it was impossible to tell whether all of the pollution comes solely from the hotel, it is clear that “large amounts of sewage are being dumped onto this part of the beach on a daily basis.”

In mid-March, officials ordered another Chinese-run facility of Koh Rong Samloem—the Jin Ding Hotel and Casino—to shut down, citing multiple violations by the casino of the law, the playing of loud music on the beach, and the promotion of illegal online betting games.

The closure followed accusations that the resort was ruining the beauty of a local beach by pouring raw sewage into the sea, prompting complaints by area residents and inspections by authorities.

At the time, Leang Sopheary—a youth volunteer who visited the island in February and posted photos of the polluted water on social media—called on authorities to examine larger areas of beachfront now also under threat.

Another environmental activist, Thorn Ratha, called for a “serious punishment” for the Jin Ding’s owner, as well as an investigation into any government official “who might have been involved” in turning a blind eye to the violations.

Call for closure

In Thursday’s video, Meng Heng noted that on March 26, Minister for Urban Planning Chea Sophara had said in a statement posted to his Facebook account that in the aftermath of the Jin Ding’s closure “Sihanoukville no longer has any dirty water entering its beaches and sea,” but the activist questioned whether the minister had actually sent anyone to inspect the area before making such claims.

He urged Prime Minister Hun Sen’s government to act against the ongoing problem of pollution in the area, starting with the Sunshine Bay Hotel and Casino.

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He said authorities are targeting serious polluters first, and that they will issue warnings to any buildings found in breach of the city’s regulations before punishing them for continued violations. Pixabay

“Will Hun Sen’s regime dare to also shut down another Chinese business, the massive Sunshine Bay Hotel and Casino, if it finds that it is also spewing raw sewage onto the sea, in much larger quantities than the one in Koh Rong Samloem,” he asked.

On Thursday, Sihanoukville provincial spokesman Or Saroeun acknowledged to RFA’s Khmer Service that “sewage is a problem,” but said Sihanoukville city officials are “working to resolve the issue.”

He said authorities are targeting serious polluters first, and that they will issue warnings to any buildings found in breach of the city’s regulations before punishing them for continued violations.

“If we find out they are violating the laws [against polluting the environment], we will ask them to correct the situation,” he said.

Also Read: “We Got in Line And Handed Them The Money,”Cambodian Migrants Heading Home for the Holidays

“We want investors to bring development, but we don’t want them to harm the environment.”

Chinese investment has flowed into Sihanoukville in recent years, but Cambodians regularly chafe at what they say are unscrupulous business practices and unbecoming behavior by Chinese residents. (RFA)