Environmental experts and academics have come out with an economic value for the groundwater of the Yamuna floodplains.
Experts, who have warned of dangerous consequences if the river is eroded off its sand, have valued the groundwater in north Delhi's floodplain aquifers — located upstream of Wazirabad — at Rs. 3,000 crore.
The groundwater in the Noida's floodplains is valued at R1,200 crore.
The National Green Tribunal (NGT) had on August 5 stayed sand mining from riverbeds without the environment ministry's clearance. But in the wake of continued mining from riverbeds across India, activists, experts, environmental lawyers and academics gathered on Tuesday for a public consultation to deliberate on ways and means to ensure the order's implementation.
Professor Vikram Soni from the department of physics of Jamia Millia Islamia, who has extensively studied the Yamuna floodplains, said: "Yamuna floodplains are 2.5 km wide and about 40 metres deep and are spread over 97 sq kms. Almost 37% of the floodplains is water. Monsoon surplus flow is 4 billion cubic metres. With holding capacity at 50% of the volume, we have something between 1.8 to 2.0 billion cubic metres water available."
Government data shows that Noida, situated between the Yamuna and Hindon rivers, gets only 20% water from the Ganga while remaining is extracted from the ground. "Roughly, this groundwater is 2,000 lakh litres. Considering people pay Rs. 1,200 for a tanker of 10,000 litres, the value is almost Rs. 1,200 crore for Noida per year and R3,000 crore for Delhi annually."
The public consultation saw activists and experts from Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh, Goa, Orissa, Uttarakhand and Haryana elaborating the ground situation and their efforts to fight sand mining.
"Activists are fighting the sand mafia to save their rivers. But these are scattered efforts and there is a need to be unified and a single platform," said Rajendra Singh of Tarun Bharat Sangh, an NGO.
Ritwik Dutta, lawyer of the National Green Tribunal (NGT) said, "There is a provision of right to appeal. Within 90 days of environmental or forest clearance for any project, one can approach the NGT against it. All dubious clearances can be challenged."
Swami Shivanand Saraswati, an environmentalist said, "Sand mining from the river bed should be allowed only to the extent that we allow milking a cow. It should not affect the river's health."