The plight of the mighty Yamuna as it flows through the NCR isn’t lost on anyone. But unknown to most of us, the ponds, lakes and wells dotting Delhi are all dying a slow death.
Delhi has 1,000 water bodies — including village ponds, marshes, lakes and step wells — according to records available with the Delhi government. Eighty per cent of these are gone, say activists, having been gobbled up by encroachments and urbanisation.
“With heavy pollution, construction in catchment areas and encroachment, most of the water bodies that were part of Delhiites’ lives till the 1990s are now history,” said Arvind Sah, who is preparing a comprehensive list of the city’s water bodies and their present status on the advice of the National Green Tribunal.
Sah, a lawyer, and social activist Vinod Kumar Jain had earlier filed a petition in the green court against encroachment and building activities around water bodies.
One of the biggest dangers to the city’s water bodies, according to experts, is the dumping of untreated sewage and the absence of sincere efforts at water restoration, such as rainwater harvesting.
The health of its water bodies is crucial for Delhi — a water-scarce city dependent on supply from neighbouring states — since they once catered to the domestic and farming needs of entire localities.
Delhi’s environment department says 629 of them are taken care of by various authorities.
“Over the past few weeks, we have been visiting various locations where there are supposed to be water bodies,” Sah said.
“Some of these don’t exist anymore. In many places, the Delhi Development Authority has built parks around the areas. As a result of the construction, these water bodies are now drying up. The one in Masoodpur is an example.”
“And it’s not like these water bodies are small. The one in Bhalswa is spread over 50 hectares,” Sah said.
“The whole of Delhi will be converted into a residential zone soon and the problem will only be aggravated. We want there to be concrete action before this happens so that we can save some of them,” he added.