Mystery road on Yamuna: Nobody knows who built a path that’s choking the river
A mystery road built with waste material connects the Yamuna’s eastern riverfront with an island 100 metres off the banks in the national capital, blocking a river gasping for survival.
Partly visible from the elevated Metro rail between Yamuna Bank and Indraprastha stations, nobody knows who built the 3m-wide lane with soil, and concrete and plastic debris.
The Delhi Development Authority (DDA) has no clue and people living on the banks said they were not aware when and how the road tucked strategically under the Metro bridge sprang up.
“A river erodes one bank and deposits the silt on the other. The so-called road could be a natural structure from erosion. We will have to inspect and remove it if built illegally,” a DDA official said.
The stretch is regularly used by cattle grazers who take the animals to the island lush with tall grass.
A villager, who refused to disclose this identity, said large quantities of debris were dumped in the river two months ago to raise the road’s height.
That sparks fears that unscrupulous people could be using the road to mine sand from the banks and islands. Collecting sand, a vital material for constructions, is banned along the Yamuna.
Environmentalists were shocked when Hindustan Times informed them about the road.
“Till now encroachment activities were restricted to the river’s banks. But this is actually an attempt to fill up the Yamuna. It is very dangerous as it blocks the river’s ecological flow,” ecologist CR Babu said.
He was a member of the National Green Tribunal-appointed committee that investigated the alleged damage caused to the floodplains by an Art of Living event in 2016.
The Yamuna, one of the most polluted rivers in India, is protected by laws that prevent activities that could further damage its fragile eco-system and banks.
Authorities are struggling to revive the dying river, which was the sparkling crown of Mughal-era Dilli until ravages of modernity reduced it to a frothing stream of sewage and toxic industrial waste. Little water flows in the Yamuna, except during the brief monsoon, because of upstream dams..
Ecologists said the road will further constrict water flow and upset natural activities such as silt transportation, groundwater recharge and revival of subsoil bacteria.
A research published in the Current Science journal in 2014 warned that about 60% water flow is necessary through the year to keep Yamuna healthy.
“If the flow is obstructed the river will start depositing silt further north and it will chock on unrestricted algal growth in the still water. Pollutants will sip into underground aquifers leading to groundwater contamination,” said Shashank Shekhar, who teaches geology in Delhi University.
The road surfaced even as the National Green Tribunal gave the thumbs up to work done so far in a Yamuna revitalisation project.
“It is a shame. DDA is clearly sleeping, if not in collusion. Shall the government and lieutenant governor intervene to save the Yamuna?” river activist Manoj Mishra asked.