Yamuna, Delhi's lifeline, 'fighting to stay alive'
New Delhi: The ghats of Yamuna stood empty and deserted with a couple of people staring into the black and dirty water of the river. The day after Chhath was celebrated, the Yamuna ghat remained dirty. This is not a new sight, Yamuna has been dirty for years and even after numerous policies catering towards rejuvenating the river, little improvement has come.
According to a 2018 report by National Green Tribunal's Yamuna Monitoring Committee, the 22 kilometre stretch of the river in Delhi, which is merely 2 percent of the whole river, contributes to about 76 percent of the water pollution. Vivek Dixit, who is a scientist at AIIMS, has taken up an initiative to clean the ghats of Yamuna and has been working on it along with other health professionals since 2013.
Speaking about the importance of flow of Yamuna, Dixit said, "Our rivers don't flow, they are stagnant and hence, they are filthy. Water is polluted majorly due to chemical waste, but even then the flow of the river has not been stopped. Who has stopped this flow? Have you seen the flowing Yamuna?"
The Committee has also pointed out that the river is "fighting to stay alive" and it would not be possible to rejuvenate the Yamuna unless minimum environmental flow is provided as it is "virtually reduced to a trickle and remains dry in some stretches for almost nine months of the year". "Nobody wants dirty rivers, but still our rivers are filthy, the riverfront is even more filthy. If you see the aesthetic view of the river, like from bird eye view, you will hardly see any river, all you will see is the canal," said Dixit.
He also pointed out that wherever there is main encroachment, there one can see stagnant water. Yamuna enters Delhi at Palla village, 15 km upstream of Wazirabad barrage, which acts as a reservoir for Delhi. "Before Yamuna enters Delhi, and the moment it leaves Delhi, it gains its flow. The 22 km of stretch in Delhi, where you have 22 sewage plants, are making Yamuna more dirty," he said.
As per the report of NGT's monitoring committee, the utilisation of sewage treatment capacity is only 75 percent, while more than 45 percent of the city's sewage is not treated and is collected from pit latrines and dumped into drains. In an October order, the Supreme Court had ordered the Delhi government to impose sewage charges on all households in Delhi within two months.
Yamuna at the moment, is in a bad condition, with debris and garbage pulpatating the hygiene of the water that is also creating a lot of diseases. Dixit said water related problems become a serious issue then.
"If the government simply does not create a hindrance or obstacle into the flow, river has its own natural quality to make itself a natural purifier. There are two dimensions that we subsequently need to work on first of all, till the time sewage water falls down in the river, throughout the year, we should not touch the flow. Let it be free flow. Else water related problems will come, health hazard will come from stagnant water. Dengue epidemics will increase," he said.
Numerous plans and policies have been created to tackle the situation. Agencies like Delhi Jal Board, Delhi Pollution Control Board, DDA are regularly asked about the working of the orders by the NGT. "I believe rivers require aesthetical approach, rivers need to be brought in the shape of the river. If they open Hatnur Dam, that moment the river flow will take place and the situation will be better. A parallel damn can be created, where instead of throwing the waste in the river, it can fall in the parallel dam," Dixit suggested.
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