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Delhi government plans bill to save Yamuna

New Delhi: There seems to be hope yet for the dying Yamuna river.

Delhi’s AAP government is planning to bring new legislation to eliminate multiplicity of authorities that has contributed to the Yamuna, once northern India’s pride and lifeline, turning into a hugely polluted waterway.

The legislation will enable the Delhi government to create a separate agency to revive the river which runs for 48 km through the eastern fringe of the national capital.

The trouble is the river, venerated by Hindus, is maintained by different departments, working at times at cross purposes, just like more areas of governance in the capital.

The proposed bill is likely to be named the Yamuna River and Flood Plain Development Bill, a government official told IANS.
The purpose of the bill is to set up one single authority, and it could be named the Yamuna Development Corporation Ltd.

A note pertaining to the legislation says the bill will “make special provision for securing, cleaning, rejuvenation, conservation and floodplain and development of the river”.

At present, multiple agencies are engaged in maintaining the river, which is the source of water for over 70 percent of Delhi’s population.

The Delhi Development Authority, a central government agency, looks after 22 km of the floodplain of the river. It is one among a dozen authorities engaged in the task.

Among the other agencies which have a say over the Yamuna are the Delhi Jal Board, the irrigation department, the revenue department and the flood control department.

“The proposed agency is a good step,” the Delhi government official said. “Multiple agencies have made the tough task of cleaning the Yamuna more complicated.”

The Yamuna originates at Yamunotri in the Himalayan range. It flows a total of 1,376 km before merging with the Ganga at Allahabad — to form the holy Triveni.

The river passes through Uttarakhand, Haryana, Delhi and Uttar Pradesh. It is considered relatively clean until it reaches Delhi where a combination of municipal, household and industrial waste begin to choke and kill the river.

The river is considered virtually dead in much of Uttar Pradesh.

Since setting up a separate authority will have financial implications, the proposed bill has to be ratified by the central government once it is passed in the Delhi assembly where the ruling Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) has a good majority.

Asked if the bill might get stuck due the rivalry between the central and Delhi governments, the official said both sides were on the same page on the Yamuna.

“In fact, the decision to bring the bill was an outcome of a meeting between the central and Delhi governments,” the official added. It is learnt that the proposed authority will have officials from both the central and Delhi governments.

A whopping Rs.1,500 crore has been spent since 1993 on sprucing up the Yamuna but critics say the money seems to have gone down the drain. Cleaning up the Yamuna was one of the election promises of the AAP, which rode to power in February. The Yamuna also figures on the agenda of the Narendra Modi government.
(Gaurav Sharma can be contacted at gaurav.s@ians.in)

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