Inland water body wants to run boat taxis in the Yamuna
Rowing through the opaque waters of the Yamuna with the stench of pungent chemicals and waste hanging in the air, coupled with the sight of garbage piles and people defecating on the banks, is likely to become a reality for Delhiites.
The Inland Waterways Authority of India (IWAI) moved a petition at the National Green Tribunal (NGT) on Monday, seeking permission to start water taxis in a portion of the polluted river.
The proposal mentioned the development of five boat-like structures, which would be anchored by cables across a portion of the river. These boats will be less than 20,000 square metre in size, the plea said.
Manoj Mishra from the Yamuna Jiye Abhiyaan, however, said that there is no merit in such projects till Yamuna is back to being a river.
“Yamuna will not become Thames overnight. What we see now is only a dead water body, which is as good as a collection of toxic waste. Where will they implement the project?” said Mishra.
He said that starting boating activities on Yamuna will only be a “white elephant” project. Such activities are generally proposed at the end of complete restoration of the river and after that also the government should conduct an environment impact assessment, before giving a nod to such a project, he said.
“No one would want to bear the foul odour and come for boat rides to the Yamuna, and even if they do, it will be a major health hazard. The infrastructure will go to waste. The implementation of the project will also obstruct the restoration of the river,” he said.
The petition has, however, called the project an ‘environment friendly’ initiative. It said that five floating terminals will be set up which will be removable, and the effect on the flood plan will be insignificant.
Approach roads to the terminals will also be made from ‘kuchcha’ material.
The tribunal had earlier prohibited any construction activity in the demarcated floodplain of the Yamuna.
“It is in pursuance of this order of the tribunal that the applicant is seeking the indulgence and permission of NGT for the development of an environment friendly and complimentary water transportation in the Delhi stretch of Yamuna,” the petition read.
Delhi’s water minister Kapil Mishra said that in a meeting with the Inland Waterways Authority of India (IWAI) last week, the upstream of Wazirabad was identified as a clean portion of the river, where the project can be implemented.
“If we get a nod from NGT then we will go ahead with the project. The portion of the river is fairly clean and such a project can be started then. We will ensure that all the guidelines are followed,” he said.
This year, from the samples picked up from seven points between ITO and the Najafgarh Drain, the dissolved oxygen (DO) content was between 0.24 parts per million and 0.32 parts per million. DO levels in healthy water are above four. Below a DO of two, aquatic life begins to get affected.
Experts say Yamuna water has a high methane content, that causes headaches and nausea. It is produced because of the decomposition of organic material in anaerobic conditions in the river.