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Yamuna crisis: Minister’s tour reveals murky details

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By NewsGram Staff Writer

New Delhi: As Kapil Mishra rode a boat on Wednesday morning to take stock of Yamuna, the city’s main source of water supply, dark grey water topped with foam lapped at the Delhi Water Minister’s boat, casting a fresh light on the deplorable condition of the country’s rivers.

Pledging his resolve to solve the Yamuna river crisis at the earliest, Mishra said, “The Yamuna river, which has now been reduced to a dark grey-coloured lifeless river, will be cleaned within the next three years.”

Apart from the minister, the boat ride included officials from various government departments; the Delhi Jal Board (DJB), the Delhi Pollution Control Committee (DPCC) and the Delhi Development Authority (DDA).

An 8-km stretch between the Boat Club at Chandgi Ram Akhara and the Wazirabad Barrage, along the Signature Bridge to ITO was surveilled by the minister and his official coterie.

”The first river fact-finding survey” revealed high degree of pollution and low oxygen content (0.3 PPM–parts per million compared to standard of 4 PPM) which have transformed the river into a big ‘nullah‘ with no water life. Further, the wrenching smell emanating from the water makes one’s head swirl.

The water quality that was tested at numerous points by DJB engineers and chemists on multiple parameters uncovered multiple problems like river-basin degradation, ecological pollution, contaminant effect on ecosystem and ecology, solid and liquid waste pollution and encroachment on riverbed.

“We must remember that before we think of our river Yamuna becoming a Thames or Danube, we have to first clean it with commitment. Our team at DJB has also collected various samples and performed water quality tests, which I will personally monitor,” the minister said while outlining the challenges and measures to address the same.

“The oxygen level in the river has also gone way below what is required. We will make the river so clean that people will be able to bathe in it.

“We will make cleaning of the Yamuna a public movement. Thousands of crores were spent in the name of cleaning of Yamuna river in last 10-20 years but to no avail. There was earlier a lack of political will to clean the river,” the minister said.

To counter the proliferation of drains emptying sewage into the Yamuna, DJB officials stated that the 33 sewage treatment plants (STPs) existing in Delhi will now be increased by 15 new STPs in the next two years.

“We will have to set up 15 new STPs to treat the sewage water before it is discharged in the river. The project will be completed by 2017,” a DJB official said.

At present, 21 nullahs (drains) carrying 850 MGD (million gallons per day) of sewage empty out into the Yamuna every day.

Highlighting the urgency of solving the river crisis, Mishra said, “The Najafgarh drain, which is the biggest polluter, needs immediate cleaning and our team at DJB has started drafting a plan to clean this. By December 2016, we will clean this drain and only treated water from Najafgarh drain will be discharged into the river.”

However, the ambitious plan has been hanging fire for over a decade now.

The only saving grace that emerged during the inspection was the reduction in travel time across the 8 Km stretch.

Now, travelling to ITO from Civil lines is expected to take just 30 minutes through the uninterrupted cruise down the river, a luxury in a city choked with traffic.

(With inputs from 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)