Kejriwal announces new 6-point plan to clean Yamuna
Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal said his government has prepared a six-point action plan to clean the Yamuna by February 2025. The river’s stretch in Delhi is one of its most polluted sections.
Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal announced on Thursday a six-point action plan to clean the Yamuna by February 2025 by improving the city’s sewage treatment capacity and network, cleaning major drains, de-silting storm water drains and taking action against industries releasing untreated waste, among other measures.
Kejriwal at a digital press briefing reminded people of his key promise during the 2020 assembly elections of cleaning the river in the next five years and bathing in it to demonstrate its cleanliness. “Yamuna is close to everyone in Delhi. It is the lifeline of Delhi. Everyone wants to see a clean Yamuna. It took 70 years to dirty the river Yamuna. All the dirt of 70 years cannot be cleaned in two days. But, we have now prepared a six-point action plan to clean the Yamuna by February 2025. We have started work on these points on war footing,” he said.
The first action point is increasing the city’s sewage treatment capacity and improving the quality of treatment. At present, Kejriwal said, Delhi has the capacity to treat only about 600 MGD of sewage because of which a lot of it is left untreated and released directly into the Yamuna. “The city actually needs sewage treatment plants (STPs) with a total capacity of 800-850 MGD. We are doing three things on this front: 1) Setting up new sewage treatment plants such as the coronation plant and the ones being built at Okhla, Kondli, Rithala and so on; 2) Increasing the capacity of the existing plants; 3) Existing plants are operating with old technology because of which even treated water is dirty and not up to the mark. We will upgrade the technology to ensure the released treated water is of 10/10 purity as per the normal standards,” he said.
The second action point is in-situ cleaning of the city’s major drains. Kejriwal said the Najafgarh drain, Badshahpur drain, supplementary drain and Ghazipur drain will be cleaned on the spot with a new technology without diverting its waste to another plant. The remaining drains, he said, will be diverted to the city’s STPs.
The third action point, Kejriwal said, would be to properly treat industrial waste and take action against units that do not adhere to the set norms. “A lot of industries on paper show that all their waste is being released only after proper treatment. But, the reality is that industrial waste treatment is practically not happening at present. All the effluent treatment plants that are not operating properly will be repaired and upgraded. The industries which fail to send their waste to effluent treatment plants will be shut down,” he said.
The fourth focus point will be community toilets built in different slum clusters and jhuggis of Delhi. “At present, the waste from all the community toilets in jhuggis is released into storm water drains as a result of which their sewage is released directly into the river. These will be diverted and linked to sewage lines instead, so that the waste is treated properly,” the chief minister said.
The fifth action point will be to increase household sewage connections in the city. “Many people still haven’t taken sewer connections in the city. Many households release their sewage directly into the local nullahs. We have decided that the Delhi government, on its own, will put sewer connections in people’s houses. They will not have to apply or seek permission from us. We will charge a nominal rate which will be adjusted in their water bills,” Kejriwal said.
The sixth point will be de-silting and rehabilitation of the city’s entire existing sewer network. “I am personally monitoring this project. We have set specific milestones for each action point and I will ensure that the deadlines are not missed,” Kejriwal said.
The Yamuna enters Delhi near Palla and travels about 48km through the city. The 22km stretch between Wazirabad to Okhla is the most polluted where 2% of the overall river length contributes to 70% of total pollution in the river, as the erstwhile Yamuna Monitoring Committee has repeatedly highlighted in its reports.
Dumping of raw sewage, untreated industrial pollutants and solid waste are the key causes of pollution in the river. The three biggest drains contributing to the Yamuna pollution are Najafgarh, Supplementary and Shahdara drain.
Manoj Mishra, convener of the Yamuna Jiye Abhiyan, said that of the action points announced by the government on Thursday, the tackling of industrial pollutants should be the immediate priority. “We have seen during the lockdown period in 2020 that Yamuna can be cleaner if industrial pollution can be checked and the ecological flow in the river can be ensured. The river has no future unless we ensure an ecological flow in it. Otherwise, no matter what we do, the conditions will not improve,” he remarked.
Diwan Singh, another Yamuna activist who led a satyagraha for cleaning the river in 2007, said the actions of all previous government do not inspire confidence that the Yamuna can be cleaned by 2025. “Even when the AAP came to power, they announced that the river will be cleaned in 4-5 years but not an iota of difference in the condition of the river can be seen. The city continues to grow in an unplanned manner and the goalpost keeps shifting. Unless we tackle our urbanisation mess, the river cannot be cleaned. We will remain in this catch 22 situation,” he said.