Millions down the ‘drain’ Yamuna; no reprieve in sight

It stinks and it stinks horribly. On the bridge of Yamuna whether the one connecting ITO to East Delhi or the one connecting Geeta colony to Rajghat, it stinks like a dirty sewage drain – this is the Yamuna river considered holy by the Hindus. The serpentine grey coloured river no longer resembles a river, it looks like a huge drain with muck floating on the surface of the dirty, grey coloured water.

Over the past three decades millions of rupees are reported to have been spent on cleaning the river, but it has only got dirtier.

The Yamuna Action Plan (YAP) was launched in 1993. Since then Two phases of YAP -1 and Yap 2 have been completed with financial grant from Japan and the third phase was supposed to have been completed by 2015, but this did not happen for reasons best known to the government of India.

There are over 22 major sewage drains that dump the city’s untreated waste into the river every day.

The Capital accounts for three per cent of the length of the Yamuna but over 70% of its pollution load. Untreated sewage and industrial effluents from 22 drains empty into the river in Delhi.

The National Green Tribunal had issued strict measures for curbing further pollution in the river which included a total ban on construction on the flood plains and the setting up of 15 mini-sewage treatment plants.

However, this has not happened. In fact, a private organisation held its congregation on the flood plains of the Yamuna last year which was fined by the NGT, but refused to cough up the fine amount.

Its not only this private organisation which left garbage on the flood plain of the Yamuna, but small time farmers are spread out on the banks of the river, tilling the ground and using river water for the crops which also get infected due to highly infected water used for irrigation from the river.

In May last year, the Delhi government had come up with a plan which was to be executed in two and a half years, somewhere around end 2018 and was said to cost yet another Rs.6000 crore.

The plan envisaged cleaning the river and developing the river bank as a biodiversity zone.

Nothing seems to have moved after the announcement of the plan.

Union Minister for Water Resources, River Development and Ganga Rejuvenation Uma Bharti got away with a reply in the Lok Sabha in December last saying that YAP Phase III project for Delhi has been approved with an estimated cost of Rs.1656 crore.  Under the project, Delhi Jal Board (DJB) is implementing rehabilitation of existing trunk sewers and rising mains, upgradation and modernization of existing sewage treatment plants.

 The DJB’s plan to clean the Yamuna is yet to find any takers. Funding remains a problem for the comprehensive strategy for sprucing up the highly polluted river.

The Delhi government wants the centre to share the cost, but the centre seems to be in no mood to oblige.

The Yamuna cannot be cleaned without the 22 drains being cleaned. Upgrading the sewage treatment plant on Najafgarh drain, one of the big four, is estimated to cost Rs. 1,400 crore.  Dredging it will cost Rs. 800 crore more. Another Rs. 500 crore is required for building cycle tracks and walkways along the drain.

The big four drains, Najafgarh, Najafgarh supplementary, Shahdara and Barapullah, are the key contributors to pollution. The plan envisages cleaning of these as well as the 18 smaller drains.

Funds released by the centre from 2013 to October 2016 are too meagre with Haryana getting Rs.87.46 crore and Delhi got Rs.4.96 crore in 2015-16.

There appears to be no seriousness about cleaning the Yamuna with centre giving small funds for the plans. But one must also keep in mind that Rs.5000 crore have already been spent over the years in the name of cleaning the Yamuna, but the river has remained polluted. The question which arises is where has all the money gone? Who has siphoned it off?

The only distinction Yamuna has is that it remains the most polluted river in the country.

————– Amit Mittal————


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