Clean Yamuna: A Pending Mission

Environmental issues have received so much of attention in the past few years. They have been discussed, youth have been involved, emphasis is laid upon use of renewable sources, rainwater harvesting, forestation and the list continues. The importance is highlighted in the school course books, the college curriculum does include it as well, and there are so many environmentalists who fight for the safety of environment. Yet, our environment is being degraded. The long list includes the high sound levels, the emissions from the factories, vehicles etc; misuse of natural resources, deforestation and so on and so forth.

Despite dozens of flyovers, towering buildings, huge multiplexes, fun parks, metro and much more, India’s capital New Delhi is not at par with other major cities of the world. A number of reasons are behind Delhi’s ailing position and pollution of river Yamuna is one of them. If London is famous for beauty of its river the Thames, Delhi is known for pollution of the Yamuna River. Once the lifeline of Delhi, Yamuna has now become the most polluted water resource of the country. It seems to serve the most exemplary example of the hypocrisy and negligence, a Government and citizens could display. A number of projects were launched by the government to clean the Yamuna, but till date nothing has happened. Not only the government, but also several NGOs are working to clean it. Yet, the situation is worsening by day. The ‘Clean Yamuna’ project has been coming along as far as my memory can recall. Crores of rupees are diverted to the project every year; still the river continues to stink like a drain system.

A website quoted Delhi chief minister Sheila Dixit claiming that Yamuna would be cleaner up to 70 per cent, before the Commonwealth Games in 2010. Ironically, the Delhi government itself submitted an affidavit before the Supreme Court stating that the Yamuna clean drive would not be completed before 2012. In its affidavit, Delhi Jal Board (DJB) said that the river remained a ‘sewage canal’ due to the 143 unauthorised colonies, 1,080 slums and villages that present a problem in collection of sewage water that flows into the Yamuna untreated.

But this failure is not only of Government action but also public cooperation. People continue to wash their clothes in the river and let their cattle bathe in. the public continues to drain in untreated human, animal and chemical wastes into the water, which have been degrading its water quality. In fact, people continue to dispose off the ashes of the dead into this river, as per the Hindu rituals. And these citizens themselves do not fail to criticize the Government for its delayed action.

There is a common myth regarding environment that economic growth and environment protection cannot be a simultaneous process. This implies that if a country wants to witness economic growth it has to be at the cost of environment degradation. Hence, it can be concluded that human intervention always has a negative impact on the environment. But it is not true. In fact, human intervention is the only force that can save the environment today. Everyone knows that simple steps such as switching off lights, or turning off the ignition at the red light, not throwing garbage on the road, recycling paper, avoiding plastic bags and using solar power can do wonders. Each citizen should do their bit. It is important that one understands that each individual effort would add up to a society’s effort and bring about big changes.

Citizens should take efforts to recycle the waste before it is discharged into Yamuna. Industrialists should comply with the norms and take all the necessary steps that are expected of them. Youth are actively participating in organizing clean drives, which is very encouraging. They should also try and create awareness, participate in the public discussions as this would pressurize the Government. It is high time GNCTD takes active steps towards this agenda, and complete it. Our Chief Minister must make a personal effort in getting the Yamuna cleaned and make it a top priority issue.

The task is huge, and lots need to be done in this field. It has to be a joint effort.

Akshita Agarwal

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