In the News:
Yamuna River Now Toxic, Unfit Even for Bathing
Posted February 28, 2010
The River Yamuna, having been declared dead with its water all poisonous from 22 drains from all over Delhi feeding 800 million gallons of sewage into it per day, can kill a healthy human being. It's the rapid industrialisation that is helping the inevitable pollution to the river, pointed out Robert Oates, director, Thames Rivers Restoration Trust (TRRT) — and the industrial revolution of India is 10 times that of England when it took place.
"It is not just Government's but every citizen of Delhi's responsibility to make sure that the river's cleanliness is restored and its purity revived," he said. The Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage (INTACH); South Asia Network for Dams, Rivers and People (SANDRP); Toxics Link; and Yamuna Jiye Abhiyan (YJA) organised a lecture by Robert Oates of TRRT in the Indian capital on Tuesday.
In a presentation, the TRRT detailed how the whole Thames River restoration project was undertaken. TRRT is an independent charity in the UK dedicated to improving the Thames River in London and its tributaries to benefit people and nature, and it has done some pioneering work in recent years. Robert explained that all the difficulties TRRT had to face 150 years back will not be faced by Delhi's governance with all its knowledge and technical advances like geographic information systems at their behest. "It might not take as long as 50 years for the whole restoration project of the Yamuna. It might take even less than 15 years if all goes to plan," he said.
The Yamuna today is what London's Thames was 150 years ago, with all its water polluted almost irrevocably. It seemed impossible to restore the Thames to its natural state, but it was good governance that brought life back to the river. Oates was there to share all the experiences of reviving the Thames and to see if there were lessons for the efforts to help revive the River Yamuna in Delhi. INTACH chairman S. K. Mishra, Ramaswamy Iyer and Manoj Mishra of YJA pointed out, along with Oates, the right measures that should be undertaken to improve the health of the Yamuna.
The drains dumping the sewage and the encumbered water flow are the two major causes that impede the river. "There are just 17 sewage treatment plants which are not functioning to their designed capacity, to serve the drains feeding 1,200 km of the Yamuna.... Instead, the government is investing 1,500 crore rupees (240 million euros or $325 million U.S.) on an interception treatment plant which is not even capable of treating the sewage," said the presentation.
No clean Yamuna in time for Games
Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit on Wednesday said the Yamuna River cannot be cleaned before the Commonwealth Games scheduled to take place Oct 3-14 in the national Capital. “Yamuna can’t be cleaned in a time of just few months. It will take time. We never promised to clean it before the Commonwealth Games,” Dikshit said. “We are making efforts to clean it. We are making interceptors to stop sewage flowing into Yamuna,” she added.
According to the Central Pollution Control Board’s 10-month-long monitoring of the Yamuna at Nizamuddin, the Yamuna's water is unfit not just for drinking but even for bathing.
Originating in the lower Himalayas, the Yamuna is 1,376 km long. The 22-km stretch that passes through Delhi is one of the most polluted. Recently Tamil Nadu spiritual leader Sri Sri Ravi Shankar announced a three-month campaign to clean the river.
“We are installing interceptors to segregate sewage from flowing into the river. It will take time to clean the river... It took years for authorities in London to even clean the Thames,” she said. Officials said the government will continue to lay interceptors along major drains in Delhi in bringing down the pollution level in the Yamuna.
The main Opposition BJP has been accusing the city government of bungling funds given by the Centre to clean the river.
Extension of the six-lane Delhi Noida Direct toll bridge to Mayur Vihar city centre under construction in the flood plain of the Yamuna River. Outfalls from 22 wastewater drains in Delhi alone, as well as other discharges from Karnal, Panipat and Sonipat carry untreated sewage directly to the sacred river, and high-rise buildings are planned for the formerly pristine and environmentally sensitive area adjacent to the Okhla bird park and wildlife sanctuary. The Yamuna at Delhi has less than a tenth of a milligram of dissolved oxygen per litre (less than one-sixtieth the amount required to be acceptable as drinking water) and is even more toxic than the Ganges River, with 17 million faecal coliform bacteria per litre (over 3,000 times the maximum permitted for bathing water). Downstream from Delhi, much as in the time of the serpent demon Kaliya, the Yamuna is now toxic for drinking and extremely dangerous for bathing; it is suitable only as irrigation water. (2007 photo)