Who is responsible for the upkeep of the Yamuna and keeping its floodplains from turning into a concrete jungle? The answer is nobody.
Responses to an RTI plea by several departments have put an official stamp on what has been a general accusation that no government agency is ready to own up and deliver on its responsibility to save the river.
The innocuous right to information application had sought answer to the question “whether the location of Akshardham Temple, Commonwealth Games Village and a Delhi Transport Department’s depot for AC buses was located in the riverbed/floodplains of the Yamuna”. Every single department that could be related with the river passed the buck on each other, each distancing itself from the dying river.
The Delhi Pollution Control Committee forwarded the plea to the department of irrigation & flood control, which in turn said the matter was related to the Delhi Development Authority. The Central Pollution Control Board and Delhi’s environment department also furnished similar replies.
But the DDA said the matter was not related to it. Survey of India felt Delhi’s department of information technology should respond.
Manoj Misra of NGO Yamuna Jiye Abhiyan said, “Zone O is the river zone in the city. Even a child looking at a map can decipher that all these structures are in the floodplain. It is bizarre and a shame that these agencies are shifting responsibilities. This reflects a mindset which has landed the riverbed in a mess and remains ever threatened.”
DDA owns land, changes land use and build structures. The irrigation and flood control department is responsible for building and maintaining embankments along the Yamuna and working in the river basins to protect Delhi from flood.
RTI applicant and environmentalist Mahendra Pandey said, “CPCB stands exposed as it proudly publishes basin-wise reports of rivers and also claims to have adopted Yamuna for study purposes. I’m glad my RTI pleas were responded to by the nature when during the recent flood the river, through temporarily, reclaimed its floodplains.”
“DDA changed land use for CWG village from agricultural and wetland to residential and commercial, but feigns ignorance because through concretisation or regularising illegal settlements in the highly fragile riverbed, it has been killing the river.”
But these departments have not shown such indifference for the first time. In reply to a recent RTI question as to why the Yamuna is called a river and not a drain, the DPCC said it doesn’t know why. Delhi’s environment department said such questions cannot be asked. The CPCB said the Yamuna is a river because the maps published by Survey of India say so.