Here lived the Yamuna. R.I.P. | india | Hindustan Times
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Here lived the Yamuna. R.I.P.

Anand Sharma would begin his day with a dip in the Yamuna, continuing a centuries-old Hindu tradition.

india Updated: Jun 23, 2010 00:04 IST
S. Raju

Anand Sharma would begin his day with a dip in the Yamuna, continuing a centuries-old Hindu tradition.

But for the past seven months, Sharma (62), a devout Brahmin and resident of Baghpat town, around 40 km northeast of Delhi, has stopped going to the river. Because, for a 100-km stretch between Delhi and Saharanpur district in western Uttar Pradesh, the Yamuna has disappeared. Only miles and miles of sand remain.

The once mighty Yamuna has been effectively reduced to a seasonal river for the past three years.

Instead of boats, one sees trucks and jeeps plying on the dead stretch of the river, with commuters using the sandy terrain as a shortcut to Haryana.

Residents here blame Haryana and Delhi for the waterless river. According to an agreement between UP and the two states, Haryana and Delhi draw water from the Yamuna from the Hathinikund barrage in Saharanpur district.

“The Yamuna has turned into an open desert in our area because of unlawful overdrawing of water by the two states,” said Swami Ramswaroop Brahmchari, who is spearheading a campaign to resurrect the river in Baghpat.

On Sunday, the district administration stationed a water tanker on the riverbank on the day of the Ganga Dussehra to provide pilgrims water for the holy bath.

“To meet the demand for water, engineers are exploiting the Yamuna,” said Ravi Chopra, member of the Ganga River Basin Authority, which is chaired by the Prime Minister. “For them water is only a substance, not a live ecosystem.”

Chopra said engineers manning dams should realise that rivers need at least 70 cent of free-flowing water to preserve their ecosystem.

Baghpat MLA Nawab Kokab Hamid admitted he had failed in his efforts to protect the river. “My efforts in the (UP) Assembly and with concerned officials to save the river got little response,” he said.

For Sharma, who now bathes at home, the drying of the river he once worshiped is a personal tragedy. “The death of the Yamuna here is like a disaster in my life,” he said in a choking voice.