Kehar Singh,70, sits atop a hillock in his village in Uttar Pradesh’s Saharanpur district, firm in the belief that the Hindon, “his river”, flows as usual through nearby ravines, as it used to three decades back.
The village, Purka Tanda, is considered the origin of the 200km-long river, with the Shivalik mountain ranges seemingly a stone’s throw away.
“My river is flowing as usual. I never inquire about it or go downstream but the government-made dams still hold water as they used to 25-30 years back,” Singh says.
But what he cannot see with his failing eyesight is that the once-mighty lifeline of the western UP region now runs dry, laden with toxic effluents from city municipalities and industries dotting its banks.
The river and its two tributaries flow from Saharanpur through the UP towns of Muzaffarpur and Baghpat, crossing six districts in the state as they snake their way to the national capital region, meeting the Yamuna at Danakur in the NCR.
“Only rare patches of stagnant water are seen sparingly. Major portions are used by farmers for cultivation. The river is almost dead here,” said Krishna Kant, a river activist from Baghpat.
The river may be almost dead but its horrors are alive and festering in Delhi’s backyard, slowly killing the Yamuna.
The Hindon and its two tributaries -- the Krishna and Kali – used to be the principal sources of water for nearby towns and villages but are heavily polluted now, adding tons of sewage to the already-choked Yamuna.
Millions of people in the Capital who are dependent on the river for their survival now find themselves struggling for even a clean source of drinking water. With outdated pollution monitoring mechanism and poor environmental oversight, there seems to be no solution in sight.