While people flocked in great numbers to Haridwar’s Ganga river in the just concluded Kumbh mela, Delhi’s Yamuna flows in quiet neglect. Pandit Sunil Kumar is among the few who remember it, every day. Every morning, Kumar takes a ritual dip in maa Yamuna’s sacred waters. A priest, Kumar has his ancestral home on a ghaat in Jamuna Bazaar, in north Delhi. The residence’s setting is idyllic. One can see the river while sitting in the courtyard. The Outer Ring Road is a mere 5-minute walk away, but there is no traffic noise here. In winter, Siberian cranes visit the place. In summer, you hear the squawking of ducks.
A short flight of stone stairs leads into the river, the water of which is blackened by Delhi’s sewage. “Since my body gets smelly after taking a dip in Jamuna I have to later take a shower under the hand-pump,” says Kumar.
Originating in the Himalayas, the river enters Delhi from the northeast, near Palla village, and after 40 kms, it leaves the Capital region from near Jaitpur village in the south. Delhi vomits 3,470 million litres of filth daily (MLD) into the river. But the city has a capacity to treat only 2.325 MLD. Till as late as 1982, the river water was safe. “Then we used to cook in its water,” says Kumar. Today you may not like to walk past it.