Jagwat Swaroop Upadhyay distinctly remembers the day in 2006 when he and other residents of Patparganj gathered under a tree on the Yamuna’s riverbed near Akshardham temple.
Upadhyay and others, who carried out farming on the riverbed, were worried by the continuous “government encroachment”.
In the run-up to the Commonwealth Games, a large residential area — to be later called the CWG Village — was planned for international athletes.
“Environmental activists Medha Patkar, Rajendra Singh and others told us how crucial it was to save the life-sustaining catchments of the Yamuna. I decided to participate in the dharna,” Upadhyay, 82, said.
The dharna went on for more than 100 days. They were able to get a certain moratorium on construction on the riverbed, though the government went ahead with the CWG Village and the neighbouring Metro station.
But it was not the first time he thought of saving the environment.
When a small water body in his area was encroached upon by a politically connected person, “we ran from pillar to post but the authorities did not budge. The Delhi Development Authority finally built a wall surrounding the water body, but we realised only later that it helped the encroacher further.”
Finally, he filed a writ petition under the aegis of Patparganj Gram Vikas Samiti in the Delhi High Court in 2004. The final hearing is yet to happen.
The retired DTC employee-turned-eco crusader said the dharna experience was so humbling and prompted him to take up other environmental causes.