It’s official. Even the government authorities are not sure whether the stretch of Yamuna between two barrages in Wazirabad and Okhla is actually a river or a drain.
In reply to a question under the right to information Act as to why the stretch is called river Yamuna and not drain Yamuna, the Delhi pollution control committee has said it doesn’t know why. The DPCC also says it doesn’t know if the stretch is actually a river.
Delhi’s environment department went further and said such questions cannot be asked under the RTI Act. The Central Pollution Control Board could only say that the stretch is part of the Yamuna because the maps published by the Survey of India say so.
The DPCC has also admitted it doesn’t know how to define a river or a drain, while the environment department said it has not formulated any such definition.
The CPCB has, however, given textbook definitions.
RTI applicant and environmentalist Mahendra Pandey said, “Drain management is an integral part of any river cleaning programme. Government agencies must be able to make a realistic distinction. No wonder the Yamuna is getting dirtier by the day.”
Yamuna’s stretch in Delhi is barely two per cent of its total length, but contributes 70 per cent of the entire pollution. The river gets sewage from about a dozen drains, thousands of truckloads of debris from construction agencies and tonnes of arsenic from power plants every year. That’s why R4,500 crore spent for Yamuna’s cleaning in the last two decades has gone down the drain.
US-based researcher Linda Ciesielski has observed in her recent report on the Yamuna, “The current system (to revive the river) lacks accountability, enforcement and is corrupt. We must restore flow to the river, keep waste out of it and protect the integrity of the basin.”
Manoj Misra of Yamuna Jiye Abhiyan says, “The Delhi Development Authority has been changing land use to allow concretisation or regularising illegal settlements in the highly fragile river bed, further killing the river.”