Ganga apart, Yamuna needs attention too

Prime Minister Narendra Modi has made it clear that he means business when it comes to clean-ing up the river Ganga, which flows through his Varanasi Lok Sabha constituency. The Ganga rejuvenation is part of Cabinet minister Uma Bharti’s port-folio, there is separate Rs 2,000 crore budget and an NRI fund for it. No doubt the Ganga needs special attention. But closer home, it is the state of the Yamuna that worries – or should worry – Delhiites. Last week, the National Green Tribunal (NGT) came up with a plan for putting on course disjointed efforts for a cleaner Yamuna, focusing on the stretch of the river that passes through the National Capital Territory (NCT) of Delhi. Here, the NGT notes, the status of the Yamuna “is only of a sewer”.

Delhi and its neighbourhoods need to accept their responsibility. The NCT accounts for only 3 per cent of the river’s course, but contributes 76 per cent of pollutants, according to the data before the Tribunal. Though what the press highlighted in this latest NGT judgment was the Rs 5,000 fine for anyone throwing pooja material into the river, the bigger culprit is the untreated industrial and household sewage which is discharged into it every day. Over the decades, as the state of the Yamuna deteriorated, Delhi’s successive governments have failed to make any significant headway. An ambitious Rs 2,000 crore project to lay 60 kilometres of ‘interceptor drains’ to trap untreated sewage was launched in 2011. On paper at least it has the potential to make a difference. But the plan has moved slower than expected.

The tribunal thinks rejuvenating ‘the Yamuna is a doable task. In fact, it has even come up with a 2017 deadline by when it should be possible to set up 32 new sewage treatment plants and reduce the flow of pollutants into the river to a negligible level. And, it has come up with a figure – Rs 4,000 crore – which it reckons is affordable for Delhi.

The NGT has even set up a committee to monitor the progress of this Maily se Nirmal Yamuna Revitalisation Project, 2017. The tribunal has had some success in the past in getting local authorities to do their bit. For example, it has arm-twisted agencies like Delhi Metro Railway Corporation to remove much of the construction debris it dumped on the banks of the river. But as with Ganga, there have been Yamuna action plans before. It is yet to be seen if the new Green Tribunal plan will bring in results, or simply go the way of other efforts.

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