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Need fresh water to revive river: activists

The government’s approach of cleaning up the Yamuna through sewage treatment plants (STPs) is flawed, say environmentalists; Nivedita Khandekar reports.

delhi Updated: Dec 03, 2012 01:30 IST
Nivedita Khandekar

The government’s approach of cleaning up the Yamuna through sewage treatment plants (STPs) is flawed, say environmentalists.

They have also warned that cleaning the river will be impossible unless fresh water is released into it.

Different Members of Parliament (MP) have sought details of the Yamuna clean-up projects and about steps the state government has taken for the proper utilisation of funds released for it. They wanted to know whether STPs in various states were functioning properly to control the discharge of sewage into the Yamuna.

One of the answers to these innumerable questions read: “So far, 60 STPs with a treatment capacity of 3,024 million litres per day have been installed through various schemes. Of these, five STPs in Delhi, 14 in Haryana and 10 in Uttar Pradesh do not meet the bio-chemical oxygen demand or chemical oxygen demand norms laid down in the general standards for discharge of environmental pollutants under the environment (protection) rules 1986.”

Manoj Misra of Yamuna Jiye Abhiyan observed: “STPs at Yamuna Nagar, Karnal and Sonepat and a few in Delhi are not working to their capacity. These were built with central funds but there are no funds for their maintenance. Why create new non-performing assets unless the old STPs and effluent treatment plants (ETPs) are not functional?”

The government admitted: “The water quality of Yamuna has not shown the desired improvement owing to a large gap between the demand and availability of sewage treatment capacity and the lack of fresh water in the river.”

Nitya Jacob, director (Water) at the Centre for Science and Environment, said: “Affluent discharge standards assume that there is fresh water in the river and so are set at a particular dilution level. But in the case of Yamuna, the entire fresh water stops at Wazirabad. The government should either release fresh water or reset the standards.”

In yet another answer to an MP’s question, the Ministry of Environment and Forests said it was helping Uttar Pradesh, Delhi and Haryana fight Yamuna pollution with financial assistance under the Yamuna Action Plan (YAP) in a phased manner since 1993. It also furnished details about the funds spent on YAP I, YAP II and the amount earmarked for YAP III for Delhi.

Pointing out that no amount of money would help the river’s cause, Ravi Monga from the Save Yamuna Campaign, said: “Even if every STP and ETP worked to their capacity, the BOD level will remain 15, against the desired 3. Considering Yamuna’s pollution levels, we need more dilution of the sewage. The government is not talking about that at all.”