The National Green Tribunal (NGT) has asked the Centre and states to hold consultations and submit by March 27 an action plan to ensure there is fresh water flow in the Yamuna.
A total of Rs 1,500 crore has been spent to clean up the river under Yamuna Action Plans started in 1994, but in the absence of natural water the money has gone down the drain, literally.
Saving Yamuna is critical because even the near-dead river meets Delhi’s 70% water needs.
After NGT’s March 2 order, Union water resources minister Uma Bharti on Friday held a meeting with Haryana chief minister Manohar Lal Khattar, Delhi CM Arvind Kejriwal, besides ministers and officials of Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan, Himachal Pradesh and Uttarakhand to find a solution. Bharti has asked the states to submit their inputs before an inter-ministerial panel gives its interim report to the tribunal within a week.
The Supreme Court in 1999 ordered that a minimum of 360 cusecs (cubic feet per second) be maintained throughout the river. But the flow in the river downstream of Haryana’s Hathnikund barrage has been limited to mere 160 cusecs.
“Barely 30 km downstream of the barrage the river starts drying up. What we see in Delhi is domestic sewage and industrial waste. For a healthy river, 70% of its water should be inside the river,” said Manoj Misra of Yamuna Jiye Abhiyaan, an NGO.
The non-monsoon average flow at Hathnikund, 230 km upstream of Delhi, is 5,000 cusecs. Even during the leanest month, January, the flow is 3,666 cusecs.
The receding water level of the Yamuna has led to the discovery of this Ganesha idol and other items. (Raj K Raj/ HT Photo)
The tightening water squeeze around the ‘chicken neck’ of the river at the Hathnikund barrage has for long for been a contentious issue. Haryana cites reasonable demands and diverts water from this barrage to fields, households and industries in its jurisdiction.
The government is now mulling to bring the Yamuna under the Environment Protection Act within two months to ensure a “free flow”. “Statutory provisions may make the natural water flow a reality,” said Misra.
What one sees in Delhi’s Yamuna stretch is mostly untreated waste. Of the 3,800 MLD (million litres per day) of sewage generated in Delhi every day, 2200 MLD flows into Yamuna through storm drains.