Cleaning the Yamuna Drain in the Capital

Saving the yamuna from pollution

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 First, the HUGE water demand of Delhi city makes sure that a lot of water is withdrawn the very moment Yamuna touches Delhi.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.

Solutions anyone?

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.

Newsclip Source

Govind Singh

Dr. Govind Singh holds a Ph.D. in environmental studies and is currently associate professor of environmental studies at O.P. Jindal Global University, Delhi NCR. He can be reached at

6 thoughts on “Cleaning the Yamuna Drain in the Capital

  1. The Delhi Government has, in a contract given to Engineers India Ltd. made a plan where all the drains will be taken underground (essentially in concrere structures) and then taken to a central treatment plant like facility, before being released into the Yamuna. How it works out is something only time will be able to tell.

  2. The article was very informative but I think we are all forgeting that there has to be something done about stopping the drainage water from entering the river.

    Like it or not, the 2010 games will take place. HOPEFULLY the river will get cleaned. But it will not be permanent if the drainage water keeps entering the river! How does the MCD and the people of Delhi combat this problem??

  3. It is unfortunate that despite the pollution levels in Yamuna climbing gradually there is not much being done.

    Unfortunately we would like to bring the true picture for the attention of all concerned.

    Swiftgrow Inc., a Canadian based professional Company had submitted a proposal to clean the Yamuna through our unique biotechnology- an environmentally friendly scientific approach towards wastewater treatment. It was learnt that the proposal was highly applauded and technically approved after a presentation was done in front of a high powered committee comprising of relevant authorities. But after that we have’t heard any positive action from the govt. authorities, which only shows that despite our Company fullfilling all the necessay documentation, spending a lot of time and effort the authorities are really not serious enough to clean the Yamuna.

    In case the govt. is still interested our Company may be contacted again to get the implementation of our technology. We have the required plan, the technology, the experience, the resources and the products to clean the Yamuna of its effluents and wastes.

  4. we shud certainly be concerned about all type of pollutions, all over the world.Because now the matter is global.And regarding Yamuna -its totally polluted . To stop this each and every individual shud be involved.else its not successful.Violaters shud be punished.Pollution shud be stopped from the grass root the people who eat gutkas shud try their level best to throw the empty pouch in a proper dustnin and not on the road.Industrial pollutants shud be punished .Strict norms shud be rolled out and they shud be followed up properly.
    Sunil Delhi

  5. Anyone who has seen the river in Delhi, will know that it does not require a plan or a program to clean it. It requires a REVOLUTIONARY approach.

  6. due to lack of people response and nexus between burocracy and leader this is happining .it is good to hear but we should make a plan to protest whether it will business man ,govt.officer or any person who are poluting holy river yamuna because “jal nahi to kal nahi” and yamuna is life lind to not only Delhi but it also for hariyana and UP

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