Two thousand years ago as parables and poems testify, this piece of the heaven landed on earth. And we raised a hell on it, since then. Today it is nothing more than a corpse, a carcass of ashes, coins and sweets forcefully fed in the name of religious rituals.
New Delhi is aware of the importance of this dead water body and the need to resuscitate it, for it is the only wealth of water the city can afford as tap water for four hours everyday in households across the city. The other times bring water to the people in the form of municipal trucks that they pay for or the water tanks installed in the buildings. What is saddening is that sometimes they have to pay doubly or three times than the amount they would have paid had they running water supply at home.
The Yamuna enters the NCR region cleaner from its 246 mile descent from the head of Himalayas. The New Delhi Jal Board collects 229 million gallons of water from the river which forms the single largest source of drinking water for the city. As the Yamuna leaves the city, it becomes a drain for the drab and the drench. To add to the river's torment, the residents pour 950 gallons of sewage into it everyday. As you pass the city, you can see the river as a black barren desert of waste, smothering your nostrils with the repressive rot. Clumps of crap flaot on the top making it unsafe for fishes leave alone for drinking or bathing. With the population of Delhi having expanded by roughly 41% in the past fifteen years, two decades of labor and an expenditure of nearly 1,500 crores pollution in Yamuna has not shown a decline and the government audit last year suggested that the DJB spent USD 200 million which yielded little value. More sewage plants have not done the trick since the lines are heavily clogged and are left at the mercy of the power which fails to keep it up most times.
To add to the woeful worries, colonies like the Janta colony are not connected to sewage pipes with open sewers drowning the alleys with sulking scum. They give the sight of green black ribbons of muck sloshing the sewer line with mosquitoes. Malaria and Dengue are epidemics that visit the areas every year.
With the burden of the Delhi, Yamuna bends to head south to cities like Agra and Mathura which are forced to treat the water heavily, all thanks to the curse of Delhi hiking up the costs by three to four folds.
As per the RTI act, the Yamuna Jiye Abhiyan extracted information about the extent of pollution and it is alarming to say that the river is now spoiled upto a 600 km stretch.
In its book Sewage Canal: How to Clean the Yamuna, published in 2007, the Centre for Science and Environment reported that the Delhi stretch of the river is not only dead but had an overload of coliform contamination. Two years later, the pollution data shows no respite to the river.
The 22-km stretch of the Yamuna, which is barely 2 per cent of the length of the river basin, continues to contribute over 80 per cent of the pollution load in the entire stretch of the river. There is also no water in the river for virtually nine months. Delhi, impounds water at the barrage constructed at Wazirabad where the river enters Delhi. What flows in the river subsequently is only sewage and waste from Delhi’s 22 drains. In other words, the river ceases to exist at Wazirabad.
This also means that there is just no water available to dilute the waste. The issue of a basic minimum flow in the river has been discussed time and again, but with water becoming more and more scare and contested, Delhi’s upstream neighbours are reluctant to release water. Delhi itself is water greedy and sucks up each drop that is released as its share. The river is then reduced to a drain for the filth and waste of the city’s inhabitants.
The latest Yamuna clean up operations began in Agra in April fearing the SC action on non-implementation of its directives on the pollution threat to the seventeenth century Taj Mahal.
Similar inititiaves have also been taken by the Art of Living Clean Delhi NCR drive and as per SC directives efforts are on to completely get the river cleaned by the year 2014.
Yamuna the cursed daughter of Surya remains cussed to this day. The religious rigidity besides the callousness for the cause has left its pleas unheard, New Delhi seriously needs to wake up to its crying calls else in the days to come water will be pricier than gold with the death of this precious water body.