‘Ya­muNa iN DElHi is DEaD’

Ex­perts say dis­solved oxy­gen lev­els in the river have been ‘nil’ in Delhi since 2015.

The Sunday Guardian - - Front Page -

River Ya­muna, which is the source of 70% of Delhi’s drink­ing wa­ter, is dead, due to ris­ing pol­lu­tion lev­els in the wa­ter and the ab­sence of any oxy­gen level in the river. This, de­spite the gov­ern­ment spend­ing over Rs 6,000 crore to clean the Ya­muna in the last two decades.

Anal­y­sis of data of the DPCC (Delhi Pol­lu­tion Con­trol Com­mit­tee) on the pol­lu­tion level in the Ya­muna shows that the Dis­solved Oxy­gen (DO) lev­els in the river as soon as it en­ters Delhi have re­mained “Nil” since 2015, while the min­i­mum re­quire­ment of DO is 4 mg/ litre. The DO is the amount of oxy­gen re­quired for the sus­te­nance of any liv­ing or­gan­ism in the river.

The BOD ( Bio­chem­i­cal Oxy­gen De­mand) lev­els in the Ya­muna also re­main very high through­out the stretch that the river takes to pass through in the na­tional cap­i­tal. BOD is the amount of dis­solved oxy­gen needed by mi­cro-or­gan­isms to break down or­ganic waste in wa­ter.

While the max­i­mum level of BOD that should be present in the river is 3 mg/litre, at most lo­ca­tions—Niza­mud­din bridge, Okhla, ITO bridge—the BOD lev­els are more than 25 mg/litre.

As soon as it crosses the Wazirabad bar­rage, the DO level in the Ya­muna turns “Nil”, which means that no liv­ing or­gan­isms can be found in the Ya­muna af­ter the Surghat-Wazirabad bar­rage and, ac­cord­ing to en­vi­ron­men­tal­ists and ex­perts, the Ya­muna turns into a “drain” while it flows through Delhi.

Even dur­ing mon­soon or the post mon­soon sea­son, there is lit­tle or no im­prove­ment in the con­di­tion of pol­lu­tion lev­els in the Ya­muna. As an­a­lysed through the last three years’ data of the DPCC, the DO as well as the BOD lev­els re­main be­low and be­yond the per­mis­si­ble lim­its through­out the year.

En­vi­ron­men­tal­ists and ex­perts have blamed the gov­ern­ment for do­ing noth­ing to save the Ya­muna which has even­tu­ally led to its death in the na­tional cap­i­tal.

Sush­mita, Pro­gramme Man­ager at the Cen­tre for Sci­ence and En­vi­ron­ment, told The Sun­day Guardian, “The pol­lu­tion lev­els in the Ya­muna while it passes through Delhi show that it is no more a river, but a drain. The Ya­muna has been dead in Delhi, for all prac­ti­cal rea­sons. The BOD and DO lev­els show that no liv­ing or­gan­isms can flour­ish in the river, nor is the wa­ter even fit for bathing. Even an­i­mals can­not bathe in the Ya­muna wa­ter in Delhi due to the high lev­els of co­l­iform (a type of bac­te­ria found in fae­ces and harm­ful for all liv­ing or­gan­ism).”

Sush­mita fur­ther said that 50% of the sewage that en­ters Ya­muna is un­treated. “There is a huge prob­lem of un­treated sewage en­ter- ing Ya­muna. There are 22 ma­jor drains in Delhi that were sup­posed to carry rain wa­ter into the Ya­muna, but, in­stead, they carry un­treated sewage into the Ya­muna. As high as 40% of the sewage treat­ment plants are not func­tion­ing in Delhi, which is why un­treated sewage is dumped daily into the Ya­muna.”

The Na­tional Green Tri­bunal, as well as the Supreme Court, has also taken cog­ni­sance of the mat­ter sev­eral times, but even then, noth­ing seems to have hap­pened in terms of clean­ing the Ya­muna.

The Min­istry of Wa­ter Re­sources, River Devel­op­ment and Ganga Re­ju­ve­na­tion had told the Ra­jya Sabha ear­lier this year that the Min­istry has al­ready spent Rs 1,514 crore for the devel­op­ment of the Ya­muna in the last three years and that at present, a Ja­panese com­pany, Ja­pan In­ter­na­tional Co­op­er­a­tion Agency, is im­ple­ment­ing phase III of the Ya­muna Ac­tion Plan (YAP) at an es­ti­mated cost of Rs 1,656 crore.

How­ever, the im­ple­men­ta­tion of the projects re­mains neg­li­gi­ble on the ground and there has been lit­tle or no ac­tiv­ity to re­store or con­serve the Ya­muna.

“The plans have al­ways been in place, but the im­ple­men­ta­tion has been zero on the ground. It is only in pa­per or else would the Ya­muna have died if the projects were im­ple­mented. Why have we failed to re­store and con­serve the river?” Sush­mita asked.

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