Rivers in India are not just the water bodies but worshiped as God and Goddess and being revered as sacred. Despite such an esteem status, rivers are being polluted due to open sewage drains, lack of sufficient sewage treatment plants, soil erosion, and by dumping plastic garbage in river water etc. One such example where every cleaning effort has failed is that of the river Yamuna. The Yamuna River once had ‘clear blue’ water but now the river is one of the most polluted rivers in the world especially around New Delhi. The capital dumps 58% of its waste into the river. Pollutants are increasing at an alarming rate in the river water. Days are not far when Delhi homes will have polluted water than ever before. Presently 70% of Delhi is drinking treated water of the Yamuna River.

Delhi is producing 1,900 million litre per day (MLD) of sewage but Delhi Jal Board (DJB) responsible for managing sewage is collecting and treating only 54 per cent of the total sewage generated in the city. Moreover the Comptroller and Auditor General of India has found out that 15 out of 32 sewage treatment plants are working below their capacities. This is polluting the river Yamuna at much faster pace than ever. Moreover increase in urban population is also increasing the pollution in the river. At the same time, underground water in Delhi and cities along the Yamuna is getting polluted due to water pollution. The Yamuna River has also been regarded as “sewage drain” by one of the officials.

Why Yamuna is Most Polluted River?

The Yamuna has five segments – Himalayan Segment (from origin to Tajewala Barrage 172 km), Upper Segment (Tajewala Barrage to Wazirabad Barrage 224 km), Delhi Segment (Wazirabad Barrage to Okhla Barrage 22 km), Eutriphicated segment (Okhla Barrage to Chambal Confluence 490 kms), and Diluted segment (Chambal Confluence to Ganga Confluence 468 kms).The Yamuna is the most polluted in its Delhi Segment. The River Yamuna enters Delhi from Palla village. 22 drains fall into the Yamuna. Out of these, 18 drains fall directly into river and 4 through Agra and Gurgaon canal.

Lack of sufficient number of sewage treatment plants has led to the increase in the polluted stretch of the Yamuna. Earlier the most polluted stretch of Yamuna was located between Wazirabad in Delhi to Etawah in Uttar Pradesh. Recently the polluted stretch has increased and shifted its starting point to Panipat, Haryana. So 100 Km of polluted stretch has been added.

In the last two decades more than Rs 6,500 crore has been spent to clean the Yamuna. But in its latest report, the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) has stated that polluted stretch of Yamuna has increased from 500 km to 600 km.

To support aquatic life, water should have 4.0 mg/ l dissolved Oxygen. Its range in the Yamuna from Wazirabad Barrage in Delhi to Agra is 0.0 mg/ l and 3.7 mg/ l.

Water pollution is measured by measuring its biochemical oxygen demand BOD) levels and the permissible range is 3 mg/ l or less. Whereas the most polluted stretch of the Yamuna has 14 – 28 mg/ l BOD concentration. BOD is increasing because there are numerous untreated sewage drains which dump drains to the river.

Stretch of the Yamuna between Nizamuddin Bridge and Agra has high level of toxic ammonia.

Stretch between Panipat and Agra has high level of Coliform bacteria.

Three barrages i.e. Wazirabad barrage, ITO Barrage and Okhla Barrage regulate the flow of River Yamuna in Delhi.

Some steps to clean River Yamuna

Installation of Sewage Treatment Plants (STP), Installation of Effluent Treatment Plants (ETP), Installation of Common Effluent Treatment Plants, Yamuna Action Plan, Environmental Awareness Campaign are few of the initiatives taken by the Delhi Government to clean the Yamuna. Apart from this water is checked regularly for its quality.

Yamuna Action Plan (YAP) – Yamuna Action Plan is for cleaning the Yamuna. Since 1993 Japan International Cooperation Agency, Government of Japan is assisting the Government of India to clean the Yamuna in phases. 39 sewage treatment plants in 29 towns of Uttar Pradesh, Haryana and Delhi were built in phase I of the plan. Near about Rs1,500 crore has been spent under Yamuna Action Plan I and II.

Result

But every goal of cleaning the Yamuna has not worked so far and the river is still polluted. Most of the sewage treatment facilities are either underfunded or not functioning properly. Moreover river gets fresh water only during the rainy season and for about nine months the water is almost stagnant. This further deteriorates the condition. Hundreds of crores of rupees have been spent without any result. Corrupt administration and attitude of people are enough to disguise the cleaning programmes. We as an individual will have to take the responsibility of not throwing anything in the river for the sake of rituals. Laws should be more stringent and money should be used for which it is allocated rather than filling the pockets.

Related information:

River Pollution in India