The Yamuna is in a huge mess, with 90,000 cubic metres of debris and other wastes on its banks — about as much as 10,000 truckloads. The Delhi government estimates that the entire clean-up operation will cost around Rs. 2.5 crore at Rs. 2,500 per truck.
People looks for coins and other offerings that devotees throw into the water of the River Yamuna in New Delhi. HT photo/M Zhazo
A committee formed by the national green tribunal (NGT) has ordered the Delhi Development Authority (DDA), the Delhi Metro Rail Corporation (DMRC) and the Uttar Pradesh government to remove all wastes by May 31.
The waste dumped consists of construction and demolition debris, garbage, polythene, organic and green wastes. The main culprits are builders, Delhi Metro Rail Corporation (DMRC) and other construction agencies in the Capital.
Members of the committee headed by the secretary of the Union ministry of environment and forests V Rajagopalan inspected the banks and discovered that there was 37,000 cubic metres of waste on the eastern bank and 53,000 cubic metres on the western bank.
Invoking the ‘polluter pays’ principle, NGT chairman justice Satyendra Kumar said agencies need to remove debris from their jurisdiction, but they have to recover the cost from whoever had dumped it.
Manoj Misra of NGO Yamuna Jiye Abhiyan, on whose petition the NGT began hearing the case a year ago, said, “The problem is you cannot shift pollutants from one river zone to another. The DMRC has two dumping sites — one at Sarai Kale Khan and another at Shastri Park.”
According to Misra, the problem arises as both Sarai Kale Khan and Shastri Park are in a river zone and therefore are not approved debris dumping sites as they have not been approved by the central pollution control board.
The NGT committee has said in case there are space constraints at these two sites, the debris has to be taken to a site in Burari, in north Delhi.
Another problem is that Delhi Police do not allow trucks carrying waste from Uttar Pradesh and Haryana into the Capital.
"The NGT committee has asked Delhi Police to make an exception and allow these trucks if they enter Delhi for removal and not for dumping," said Misra.
The Yamuna's 22-km stretch in Delhi is barely 2% of its total length, but accounts for about 70% of the entire pollution.
Since 1993, Rs. 4,500 crore has been spent by Delhi, Uttar Pradesh and Haryana governments for tackling the Yamuna's water pollution, but without any success.
Authorities have erected warning and cautionary notice boards along the river forbidding people from throwing pollutants, but for want of any effective deterrent or penal action, the menace continues.