Delhi may join the elite club of cities with water taxi services by June end as the Centre’s Yamuna Water Taxi project to ferry tourists and public from Palla (Delhi-Haryana border) to Wazirabad is moving as per schedule.
The service aims to promote tourism and reduce travel time between Wazirabad and Fatehpur Jat to 45 minutes. The distance between two points is nearly 20 kilomertres but due to poor public transport connectivity and heavy traffic movement on the stretch (it connects the national capital to Haryana) , it takes 3.5 hours to cover the distance.
Initially, only three of the five boarding points will open.
The Inland Waterways Authority of India (IWAI) has been appointed to implement the project and the process to procure vessels and develop infrastructure is already underway. The authority has moved a plea seeking environmental clearance from the National Green Tribunal (NGT).
Amitabh Verma, chairman of IWAI, said as no permanent structure will be constructed, the authority hopes it will get a nod from the environment watchdog. “Things are very much on the track. Tenders for dredging, three passenger vessels, and jetties have been floated. Hopefully, by the end of June, we will start the ferry service in the city,” he said.
The decision came after a feasibility study was done to identify a suitable stretch of the river for navigation and development of water transport facilities. After this, Delhi water minister Kapil Mishra along with the officials of IWAI, irrigation and flood control department and Delhi Jal Board (DJB), conducted a site inspection in July 2016.
Environmentalists are not amused with the idea and said the river does not have enough water round the year to survive such activities on a large scale.
Manoj Misra, convenor of the Yamuna Jiye Abhiyaan, said the water available on the stretch is meant to be used for drinking purposes and this arrangement should not be disturbed. “This will affect the biodiversity along the river. If one wants to use small-hand rowing boats for leisure, it makes sense but water taxis will be useless,” he said.
Environmentalist Vikram Soni, a professor at Centre for Theoretical Physics, Jamia Millia Islamia, said the plan does not seem feasible because the river does not have enough water except for the three months during monsoon.
“This will lead to destruction of the flood plain. They should not touch it but make efforts to save it for future generations,” he said.
After the feasibility study, it was found that the stretch is suitable for the implementation of one of the priority projects of road transport and highways minister Nitin Gadkari.
“Yamuna upstream, which is almost 22 kms from Wazirabad to Palla, is less polluted and has the ‘required depth’ for navigation. The study said that water taxi and recreation activities are the most feasible and environmentally sustainable for this stretch. The initiative will help keep burden off the roads to some extent,” added Verma.
If the plan is implemented successfully, the authorities are optimistic that it will pave the way for introduction of more water recreational activities or sports in Delhi and the Centre’s ambitious Delhi-Agra steamer service through Agra Canal project.
“Water sports are quite common and popular abroad. This will not only help boost tourism but also facilitate to rejuvenate the river by sensitising the youth about the importance of the river,” he said.