Civic bodies get to work, start Yamuna clean-up

Toxic waste collects in river after immersion of idols

After the defiling, comes the cleanup. With the immersion of hundreds of idols of Goddess Durga into the already polluted Yamuna after Durga Puja, civic authorities now have to set about dredging up a large quantity of insoluble waste like wood, plastics, and toxic material that were consigned to the waters as per Hindu religious beliefs.

“The municipal corporation is collecting waste from the Yamuna’s banks, while the irrigation and flood control department is cleaning the river. The waste collected after the idols were immersed is mostly biodegradable, so we dump it in landfill sites in east, south and north Delhi,” Yogendra Singh Mann, spokesperson for the East Delhi Municipal Corporation, told IANS.

“The cleaning of the Yamuna is a routine drive of the corporation, but during the festive season, special measures are taken to clear the river of waste thrown in after religious rites,” Mann said.

The Yamuna meets nearly 70 per cent of Delhi’s water needs. Over the past two decades, nearly Rs 1,500 crore was spent on cleaning it up. Despite that, however, the river continues to run polluted.

After Durga Puja, though, pollutants are more visible than water in some stretches of the river. The Yamuna was a sorry sight on Friday, with litter floating near the bank and herds of cows grazing on sodden coloured paper and offal in shallow water.

After the immersion of idols late Wednesday evening, a gray channel in the river was choked with ritual litter, wilted flowers, bamboo skeletons of idols and other waste that was non-biodegradable. However, the irrigation and the flood control departments had set up temporary enclosures to collect flowers and waste and the Delhi Jal Board had released extra water into the river to ease the clogged channel.

“There are 12 employees assigned the task of removing waste from the ghats. The process will continue till the end of this week,” an official said.

Permission for immersing idols was granted in some sections of the river, at Ram Ghat, Kudsia Ghat, Geeta Ghat and Kalindi Kunj.

An officer of the irrigation and flood control department said plastic bags and clothes were also found in the river, and efforts are being made to clear these. “Preventing people from immersing idols into sections of the river where this is not encouraged has proven to be difficult. There is a general lack of awareness of where immersion is allowed,” said RM Bharadwaj, a senior scientist, Central Pollution Control Board.

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