In wake of the surging Yamuna and the tragic developments in Uttarakhand, experts have warned of severe consequences due to rapid and rampant urbanisation and concretisation of the stretch between the Yamuna and the Hindon rivers.
For at least a millennium, the east bank of the Yamuna river was never a planned city, unlike the many cities of Delhi. The stretch further towards east till the Hindon river too had few villages apart from Ghaziabad.
The obvious reason for not "developing" the doaab (the area between two rivers) between the Yamuna and the Hindon rivers was that the region was an extension of the Yamuna and Hindon floodplains and prone to regular floods.
Today, with land becoming a precious commodity, there is exponential growth and development with planned and unauthorised colonies in east Delhi, Ghaziabad, Indirapuram, Noida and the high rises of Greater Noida.
Manoj Misra of the Yamuna Jiye Abhiyaan said: "The main issues of concern are the Hindon river, which meanders widely, and the wide floodplains of the Yamuna, which meanders similarly. These need to be kept in mind while planning for anything to do with the river and the aquifers and of course, towns."
"The water table of this stretch is high due to proximity of the rivers. When there is heavy rain, or floodwater, the concretisation will prevent proper discharge and lead to more inundation. Most of the natural drains have been destroyed in urbanisation," said Nitya Jacob, director (water), Centre for Science and Environment.
On the one hand, the concretisation has reduced groundwater recharge capacity and dwindled the water table and on the other, the surface water discharge poses a problem and leads to flooding. The way out is to free natural channels of encroachment, he added.
The way out is to free natural channels of encroachment, he added.
But this is easier said than done. Akash Vashishtha, conservation coordinator with Hindustan Environment Action Group had filed a case against the governments of Haryana, Delhi and UP against concretisation of the riverbed and floodplains at the National Green Tribunal (NGT). On May 20, the NGT had ordered demolition of all such illegal structures.
"This area is essential for water recharge, especially in Noida and Greater Noida, which have been notified as ‘critical and semi-critical’ for water table," Vashishtha said.
A permanent solution for both flood (management) and depleting ground water is to "manage floodwater". "Utilisation of this floodwater using already existing drains, lakes and other water bodies to store and recharge this precious fresh water, is the way out," suggested KJ Anandha Kumar, a scientist with Central Ground Water Board, now with the National Institute of Disaster Management.