Over a month after NGT ban, open defecation a common sight on Yamuna floodplainsUpdated: Jul 08, 2017 10:07 IST
More than a month has passed since the National Green Tribunal in a landmark order on May 19 had banned open defecation on the floodplains of Yamuna. It had directed the authorities, including Delhi police, to impose a fine of Rs5,000 on defaulters.
But little seems to have changed on the ground.
While open defecation continues unabated, police are yet to react. The Delhi Development Authority (DDA), which looks after the ‘O’ Zone (the river front), has however put up some boards, declaring that waste dumping and defecation is prohibited.
Hindustan Times visited a few spots along the Yamuna Bank such as Yamuna Bazaar and Kailash Nagar. Hundreds of homeless, rickshaw pullers and slum dwellers live in these areas and most of them still go to the Yamuna banks to relieve themselves every day.
“There are a few public toilets here but one has to walk for at least 10-15 minutes to reach them. We all go to the Yamuna. Now the court has directed the police to impose a fine. But what are we to do?” said Sarita Devi, who lives on the bank of the Yamuna.
Residents of a slum on Pushta Road at Kailash Nagar on the eastern bank of Yamuna claimed that the Delhi Urban Shelter Improvement Board (DUSIB) has installed a few community toilets inside the slum, which they have started using. But the toilets turn unusable early in the day.
“Most of the slum dwellers use the toilets but some relieve themselves in the bushes and vegetation on the river banks. There are however no lights and no water inside. One has to carry water. Sometimes they get too dirty. Then we prefer the river bank,” said Ram Lal, a resident of the slum.
Locals claimed that even though the toilet is now functional, it was out of order for at least two months. The septic tanks had become full and waste water was flooding the area. The contractor who was supposed to clean the tanks came after two months.
“This could be a stray incident. The public toilets are usually maintained properly. In case of any grievance, the public should approach us. We take immediate action,” said DUSIB chief executive officer (CEO) VK Jain.
On the west bank, one could see scores of homeless and rickshaw pullers living under the bridge. Ask anyone about a public toilet and they would instantly point towards the river bank.
“There are a few public toilets in Yamuna Bazar (a 10-minute walk) but we usually go to the river. There are a lot of bushes and forest patches where one can find an isolated spot,” said Md Hussain, a rickshaw puller.
Every morning, sights of locals carrying plastic bottles and vanishing into these bushes on the river banks are a common sight in these areas. But the police turn a blind eye.
“It is not that people don’t know about the order and the fine. But most of the people living in these areas don’t have option. You can’t walk for 10 minutes and then wait outside a toilet for another five to 10 minutes,” said Saraswati Mandi, a resident of Jamuna Nagar.
In the order, the NGT had not only banned open defecation but even dumping of waste in and around any water body and on the floodplains of river Yamuna. The principal bench, headed by NGT chairperson Justice Swatanter Kumar, had directed the authorities to take stringent action against defaulters and impose a fine of Rs5,000 as environmental compensation.
But to date, not a single person has been fined. Locals, police and even DDA officials pointed out practical problems in implementing the order.
“Most of the dwellers, who live in slums along the banks, are poor and won’t be able to shell out Rs5,000. There could be law and order problem,” said a senior official of the DDA’s planning department.
Police pointed out that the river front, which comes under the ‘O’ zone under the Master Plan of Delhi 2021, is nearly around 24,000 acres.
“It would be herculean task to keep a tab on people who are defecating in the open round the clock. Do you catch them red-handed and issue a challan? How do you prove who has defecated? Several questions need to be answered before a crackdown,” said a senior police official.