Even as the Yamuna flows well above the danger mark, both the Delhi government and Delhiites seem to be quite oblivious to the devastation that could be caused if encroachments continue to eat into the vulnerable floodplains.
The Yamuna, which runs for 48 kms along Delhi, covers approximately 9,700 hectares. Floodplains are vital for recharging the groundwater table. But as Delhi's population grew exponentially over the years, the pressure on the riverbed and floodplains increased.
As a result, rampant encroachment on both sides followed. While the government built and allowed huge structures such as Metro stations and the Akshardham temple, people chose the floodplains to raise colonies, which are now awaiting regularisation.
The latest nail in the coffin is Delhi Development Authority's (DDA) proposal to shift 61.59 acres from the O zone (river) and include it in D zone (land).
On Wednesday, the Yamuna level had touched 207.32 metres (8 pm). In the event of an unfortunate situation like Uttarakhand, or even release of more water upstream, it can lead to havoc in Delhi.
"The 'O' zone has already been greatly eroded by nibbling building activities and it should not be further encroached upon. A cushion is needed to sustain unpredictable developments such as this rising Yamuna flood level," said Manu Bhatnagar, environmentalist. Manoj Misra of Yamuna Jiye Abhiyaan, recalls the futile effort by the Justice Usha Mehra Committee formed in 2005 after the Delhi High Court directed it to come up with list of structures to be removed from the Yamuna bed in connection with a case filed by the Wazirpur Bartan Nirmata Sangh. "As against the mandate to remove all kinds of structures, the committee was very selective. People with no voice were removed but places such as Delhi Metro's Shastri Park depot, colonies such as Majnu Ka Tila, Batla House and Abu Fazal Enclave were not even mentioned in the list," he said.
"Altering the 'O' zone would be just another step in continuation of this disaster," Misra added.Warned AK Jain, activist and DDA's former commissioner (Planning): "We should not be tampering with the floodplains and 'O' zone boundaries. The river's character is not going to change even if we change these boundaries."Jain demanded that the Centre must take a stand now.