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Unheeded concern

Unheeded concern

Almost every year, we witness strong political ambitions regarding environmental concerns and likely judicial intervention to facilitate efforts towards the same. Though both are essentially done in good faith, the end result is mostly disappointing. There has been a lot of discussion on the Yamuna river that cuts across the heart of India's capital, New Delhi. The last decade, in fact, drove the issue right into minds of schoolchildren who saw 'environmental trips' being organised by respective schools to spread awareness regarding the deteriorating condition of the river. Carrying raw sewage, untreated industrial waste and garbage across its Delhi stretch, the river marks a striking resemblance to a sewer. As evident as it could get, even a decade of awareness regarding a glaring environmental concern was not sufficient to turn around the sorry state that the river is found in today. And, a decade is not even the beginning of the sorry state that the river has been in. Rivers have been lifelines to human settlements since time immemorial. Much like Ganga, Yamuna has attracted environmentalists and social activists at a meeting point to exude apprehension of the national capital's dying lifeline. The river has been largely deprived of fishes. The oxygen required by the river to sustain marine life does not meet the standard. Multiple accounts of toxic froth floating on the surface of the Yamuna along the Delhi stretch sums up the river's health in contemporary times. While the National Green Tribunal has persistingly issued directions that can rid the river of the dismal state, the Yamuna file has only inflated with neverending notices to concerned authorities over required action. With the turn of the decade, however, we can instil hope on a government that has delivered and an environment watchdog that has painstakingly stuck to issue directives in the interest of the river. Delhi chief minister during poll campaigns this year had mentioned how cleaning Yamuna will be his government's top priority. Like all his predecessors, even Arvind Kejriwal gets to have the public's trust over his promises. But only till he proves them wrong by failing to alleviate Yamuna's condition, much like Ganga. Modi government's Namami Gange has not reaped the results it had envisaged. The administration has to step up and enforce action plans that can yield visible difference in Yamuna's condition.

NGT's order on Thursday directs DDA to form a special purpose vehicle in two weeks time for the rejuvenation of Yamuna. NGT, as always, has stuck to its role of facilitating efforts towards the citizen's right to clean environment. A bench headed by NGT chief Justice Adarsh Kumar Goel asserted that "the functions of such entity will include ecological restoration of the floodplain zones, setting up of biodiversity parks, artificial wetlands, phytoremediation of drains at the river mouth locations, maintaining the vigil land undertaking flow measurement, creating ecological services, removing encroachments and undertaking other activities, including riverfront development". All roles mentioned by the NGT bench can comprehensively produce a drastic change in the river's health. As always, directives appear strong on paper but require judicial overwatch to ensure proactive adherence. It is when these functions are carried out on the ground that the river's fate shall change. And, more than compliance reports from civic authorities like DDA, a plain sight of the river shall speak for the targeted rejuvenation. The bench also asserted that DDA "may also take steps to attract and educate the citizens and nature enthusiasts for activities, including building environmental temper amongst the citizenry, without in any manner causing any damage to the floodplains". The Yamuna Monitoring Committee's report says that lakhs of residents of colonies without sewers continued to release their sewage into drains, caused pollution and did not pay anything as sewerage charges. Educating the citizenry about the environmental concerns regarding Yamuna is imperative. It is to make them see the difference that can be made by individual restrain when it comes to dumping waste in the river. The NGT outlined the absence of sound management practices which the Kejriwal government has to ensure in its pursuit of cleaning Yamuna. Bold statements are best followed with great efforts. Step by step progress and reports over the same would be a good start. In 2020, the citizenry does not need political rhetorics like "the water would be so clean that we can take a dip in it". Solving drain concern is crucial to the entire problem. Though the green panel has directed the Delhi government to set up an Integrated Drain Management Cell for remediation and management of all drains in the city, last-mile implementation is the key. And, while Delhi does all that it can to ensure a cleaner and healthier Yamuna, UP and Haryana must ensure utmost swiftness in their decision making to check waste discharge in the river.

(Image from livemint.com)

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