Cleaner Yamuna: Greener Delhi
The Yamuna in Delhi has been in a bad shape for quite some time now. The Commonwealth Games’ construction on its floodplains has only aggravated this to such as extent that concerned citizens and action groups are losing patience by the hour.
There is a visible difference between the water quality at Palla (where the Yamuna enters Delhi) and at Okhla (where it leaves Delhi). As the Yamuna traverses through the city, it is slowly converted from a river to a drain – and a very dirty one at that. It seems Delhi lives in the delusion that the River enters the city (only) to serve its needs and there is no other city/town/village downstream of Okhla that needs the river.
Overlooking the Commonwealth Games’ effect, the the change of status of Yamuna (from a river to a drain) is owing to several factors. First, the HUGE water demand of Delhi city makes sure that a lot of water is withdrawn the very moment Yamuna touches Delhi. This reduces the volume of total water in the river as it flows through the city, leading to a reduction in the self-cleaning capacity.
This water is then released back into the river, when it leaves the city (as sewage) which is the second most serious problem. There is a paucity of Sewage Treatment Plants (STPs) in the capital. There is also an incorrect estimation of the total number of such plants needed as the volume of water that is diverted from the river for drinking purpose is less than that released as waste – back to the river.
There are some industries along the river as well, which only add to the problem. A white froth floating on the surface of the river, when viewed from the ITO flyover is a common sight. Ironically, the view is even better from the 6th Level of the Delhi Secretariat building, from where the Delhi Government’s Department of Environment functions.
The current situation is grim. With the Commonwealth Games around the corner, water demand will only increase (for drinking as well as construction purposes). A balance has to be maintained somewhere and it has to be ensured that drinking water does not go waste, especially when leaking pipelines is a common sight in the capital.
The damage to the floodplains owing to the construction activity has already been made. Damage control could have been initiated but the damage is still continuing. We may not like it, but the fact of the matter is – that Delhi will host the 2010 Commonwealth Games. And we must not only ensure that it happens causing least damage to Delhi’s environment but also make sure that it happens in an organised manner.
However, India’s (failed) bid for the 2014 Asian Games only goes on to show that the Government has not learnt any lessons from ‘hosting the Commonwealth Games’ menace that we must develop our infrastructure first and then invite such mega-sporting events – NOT the other way around.
As for the polluted Yamuna flowing in Delhi, a solution that may not liked by all, could be that instead of diverting the river’s water at Wazirabad (Yamuna enters Delhi at Palla Village, 15 km upstream of Wazirabad barrage) – it may be allowed to flow as it is and the water for drinking purpose be withdrawn from downstream….somewhere after Okhla.