THE decline and slow death of the sacred river Yamuna is one of the major ecological tragedies of modern India. Yamuna, the capital city Delhi’s lifeline is but a flowing mass of faeces , according to the Central Pollution Control Board(CPCB).
This shocking revelation forms part of the CPCB report submitted to the Supreme Court, in response to the apex court directive to study the quality of water in the river. The apex court asked the Board for this while hearing a Public Interest Litigation(PIL) filed by a citizen’s initiative to draw the attention of the authorities to the slow demise of the sacred river.
Both the Ganga Action Plan and the Yamuna Action Plan are monumental failures. Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh admitted as much in a reply to a BJP member’s query in Parliament in July and added that it will take at least four years to restore Yamuna to a reasonable level of health. The Yamuna Action Plan was launched in 1993.
A whopping Rs 872 crore has already been spent on cleaning the river, which the Minister now admits was a failure. Obviously the money has gone into the pockets of unscrupulous politicians. The basic responsibility of cleaning the river is with the Delhi state government which for the last ten years has been under the Congress. Shiela Dixit who used to say that the cleaning of the river is a priority and that it will be done in four years, now says it is an impossible task. It is in the 22 kilometre stretch of Delhi, where as many as 25 major drains discharging into the river that it gets polluted the maximum. The water is clean and reasonably of good quality from its source in Himalayas and till it enters Delhi from Wazirabad . Then this is the situation brought about by the so-called urbanites—145 unauthorisd colonies and 1080 slums and villages whose untreated sewages flow into Yamuna- who make it a large sewage canal. The centre and Uttar Pradesh governments are also equally responsible for this depressing state of the celebrated river.
Delhi is built on the banks of the river Yamuna. The legendary river has inspired for thousands of years the civilisational saga of the people of this land. This river was and still is integral to our cultural ethos and emotional history. In Mahabharata it is described the most beautiful of all rivers on whose banks Sri Krishna played and frolicked with his friends after he undertook a massive restoration campaign. The modern Kalia, the hydra-headed monster of industrial effluence and human pollution have made the river a poisonous, contaminated sewage. And this has happened in the last sixty years after independence.
Till the middle of the last century, Yamuna was a pure, beautiful and bountiful lifeline. The Mughals and even the British eulogized, built their empires on its banks, Shahjahan built his iconic monument of love on its bank because of the prestine glory and attraction of the Yamuna. The Imperial Gazetteer of India in 1909 recorded Yamuna’s water as “clear blue”, unlike the “silt-laden” water of Ganga. Human civilization has flourished on the banks of the rivers and as rivers changed their course or dried up civilizations too faced untimely decline and fall. We say all this to highlight the culpability of the modern and post-modern India in the decline of the country’s premier river wealth.
Only a major citizens’ initiative can save the river and restore it to its prestine glory. If a conscious, inspired and concerted effort of the people who love and worship Yamuna is not immediately initiated, Yamuna will soon become history, with its incalculable loss to modern Indian habitat.