How much sewage is flowing into the Yamuna in Delhi to make it the dirtiest river in the country?
The Delhi Jal Board (DJB), responsible for treating the sewage so they don’t pollute the river, has conceded that it does not know the answer.
A few days ago, an RTI application had asked the DJB how much million-litres per day (MLD) of sewage flows into the river to make it polluted.
“The answer is not available with us,” was the reply.
What’s more, RTI replies also revealed that the DJB also does not have even an estimate of the amount of sewage generated in the urban villages and unauthorised colonies, where sewer network has not been laid.
These urban clusters have for long been considered the biggest stumbling block for any exercise to clean the river because of the amount of sewage they discharge.
And minus the data, the upcoming Interception Sewer network of the DJB -- Rs 1,800 crore project -- touted as the last ditch effort to clean Delhi's river, could turn out to be a dud.
“It all seems like a lot of half-baked data,” said Vinod Jain, an environmental activist who has dragged the State to the high court to force it to clean the river, restore the drying water bodies and stop construction on riverbed.
“This means, the basis of all the programmes to augment sewage treatment capacity and seek funding to clean the river is pure guesswork,” he said.
Guesswork it is indeed.
As per a conventional rule, the DJB “assumes” that around 70-80 per cent of the total water demand in the city turns into sewage and flows into Yamuna, said DJB chief executive officer Ramesh Negi.
“Delhi’s water demand is around 700-800 million gallons per day (MGD). Our sewage treatment plants have a combined capacity to treat around 512 MGD. And we are in the process of adding another 100 MGD to the sewage treatment capacity,” he said.
“And this arrangement is made by working out the conventional rule of estimation.”
Yamuna cleanup in Delhi has been a victim of wrong government estimation in the past.
In the 1990s, Delhi had installed a number of sewage treatment plants (STP) as river cleanup process. But money went down the drain as it was found that the STPs could not function optimally because most of the city’s sewage could not be channeled into them.
The Interceptor Sewer Network is a similar, mammoth plan to connect all the sewage with a central sewage-carrying stream that would channel it to STPs.
But minus the data, the project’s viability is in question.