Dumping of debris continues unabated in Yamuna, activists question role of police
The patrolling by guards hired by the DDA have exposed the magnitude of the serious violation of the National Green Tribunal’s order barring the dumping of debris on Yamuna riverbed. In the past six months, they have stopped more than 150 trucks carrying around 1,000 tonnes of debris from being dumped on the floodplain.
But what is more intriguing is what happened to that debris. While the security agency and the DDA officials claim that all cases were reported to the police, the police claimed that they have received only a few cases which were dealt with according to the law.
This has led activists to raise serious questions on the role of the police and the DDA in preventing the mafias from polluting the Yamuna.
Dumping and encroachment
Dumping of construction debris on the floodplains and encroachment by slums seems to be the two sides of the same coin.
Hindustan Times visited some of the spots, including the area below the Nizamuddin Bridge and Usmanpur area in northeast Delhi to find out how truckloads of debris have been dumped on the floodplains.
The manner, in which debris has been dumped below the Nizamuddin Bridge and its surrounding areas, clearly indicates that it was done over a period of time, and was not one off incident. In some portions the debris was in the river to reclaim land out of the river so that illegal constructions could be raised on it.
“Once the debris is dumped the plot is levelled with roadrollers so that slums and unauthorized parking plots could come up on them,” said Ramesh Singh in-charge of one of the patrolling teams.
Such activities are rampant in places such as Batla House, Usmanpur, Shakarpur and Geeta Colony among others. Once the shanties are established, they are covered with sarees and cloths. Brick walls are erected behind them. One or two storied houses follow.
“Debris dumping in Yamuna and the ridge to reclaim land has been going on for long. In 2006, the Delhi High Court had banned construction within 300 metres on either side of the Yamuna except in Majnu Ka Tilla and Kalindi bypass. But in 2013, a three-member committee appointed by the NGT and headed by CR Babu had found evidence of debris dumping to reclaim land for encroachment. Later in 2015, the NGT banned dumping of construction and other waste and even imposed a fine of Rs 50,000,” said Manoj Misra of Yamuna Jiye Abhiyan.
The Central Ground Water Authority had stated in its latest report in 2017 that the Yamuna and the ridge are the major groundwater recharge zones of Delhi.
“Dumping of construction and demolition waste will be harmful to the recharging process as it will clog the gaps and pores. It would also obstruct the river and affect the ecological flow. It may also cause floods,” said AK Gosain of the members of the NGT-appointed panel and a professor of civil engineering at IIT, Delhi.
Action Taken Report
The DDA claimed that more than 250 cases of illegal activities, including dumping, encroachment, mining and water theft has been detected over the past six months.
“Every time we detect anything illegal we inform the police. The violators along with their vehicles were handed over to the police when the PCR van arrived. We have every detail in our register, along with the PCR van numbers and photos,” said PK Bhattacharya security officer of the private agency, Rakshak.
According to DDA, the maximum number of cases of waste dumping was detected in places such as Usmanpur and Geeta Colony, both in east Delhi.
But while a senior officer of the New Usmanpur police station claimed that they have not received any such cases in the past three months, an officer of Geeta Colony police station claimed that they challaned the violators and forwarded the cases for further action to SDM, Gandhinagar.
“No agency has handed over any vehicles to us or has complained that debris was dumped in the Yamuna at least in the past two to three months. They should have informed us if they had intercepted anything,” said a senior officer of New Usmanpur Police station.
TC Sharma, Gandhinagar SDM, however, said: “I received only three cases from the police over the past six months in which I have issued a challan of Rs 50,000.”
This raises questions as to what happened to the other cases which were handed over to the police.
“We don’t know what the police did with the violators. They didn’t inform us. We would be soon writing to the Delhi Police asking them what action have been taken in the cases,” said Som Pal, executive, DDA’s eastern division-II.
This has prompted environmentalists to question the role of the police and even the DDA.
“This is a total abdication of responsibility by all government agencies, including police and DDA, which were specifically directed by the NGT to stop waste dumping in the Yamuna. But it seems that it is still rampant. If the DDA has lodged so many complaints where have they gone?” said Misra.
Security guards of the private agency claimed that in the absence of any visible action on the part of the police and the DDA, their “morale is at an all-time low”.