River Pollution plaguing The Yamuna

Background

River Yamuna is the most important tributary of the Ganga and its source is the Yamunotri Glacier. Yamuna basin is one of the most fertile and high grain yielding river basins in the country and a boon for agriculture. It is the second most important river after Ganga and has attracted much attention because three major cities- Delhi, Agra and Mathura are located within a stretch of 200 km on its banks. Apart from these main cities, many large urban hubs like Yamuna Nagar, Panipat, Sonepat, Gautam Budh Nagar, Faridabad and Etawah are situated on the river’s bank. 

The challenge lies in harnessing the river to boost environmentally safe and sustainable activities. There has been relatively little change in the state of river or our understanding of its ecosystem characteristic except that the levels of pollution have increased despite increasing efforts under Yamuna Action Plan II (YAP-II) and encroachments on to the floodplain have increased. 

Aim of the Project

To project raising of an Ecological Task Force (ETF) Battalion for rejuvenation of River Yamuna in Delhi.

River Yamuna’s Importance for Life & Livelihood

The Yamuna as a LifeLine.

The river water is used for drinking and agriculture by several cities in the States of Haryana, Uttar Pradesh, Delhi & Rajasthan. The share of each State has been decided by a Memorandum of Understanding signed by all the States in 1994 and is being regulated by the Upper River Yamuna Board (MoWR, RD & GR).

Groundwater Recharge.

The river helps replenish the water table by recharging it with floodwater and performing important ecological functions. It sustains aquatic biodiversity and brings with it nutrient-rich alluvial sedimentation full of minerals and organic matter during the monsoon months.   

The EcoSystem of River Bank

A healthy floodplain gives water space to spread out and slow down. Rivers carry sediments and aquatic life flourishes when there is sufficient oxygen. The vegetative cover prevents soil erosion and helps regulate the water temperature.

Floodplains can be rich and biologically diverse environments that often support an abundance of plants and birds. Floodplains take on and store excess water in times of flood, releasing it slowly into groundwater aquifers which eventually help recharge the river.

The Importance of Wetlands.

Wetlands are ecosystems which serve to protect and preserve the river, recharge groundwater, prevent flooding and promote ecological diversity. These are distinct ecosystems and a completely different set of approach is needed to preserve, nurture and manage them. Migratory birds are attracted to wetlands which if managed well can enrich the environment as different species come there for breeding.

 

Pollution and River Yamuna.

While everyone wished for a clean river which can be used for cultural, religious and recreational purposes, today high levels of pollution have destroyed the river often described as ‘Maily Yamuna’.

Shortest Stretch of River Yamuna is the Most Polluted.

The Yamuna enters Delhi near Palla and traverses about 48 Kms through Delhi. 22 Km stretch from Wazirabad to Okhla is the most polluted stretch. 2% of river length is in Delhi and it accounts for 70% of the total pollution in the Yamuna.  

 

Major Causes of Pollution in the Yamuna.  

 The river is being polluted by several small or big means however the major causes are as under:-

  • Sewage – Untreated Sewage Waste
  • Industrial Effluent
  • Solid Waste 

Big drains contribute the most to pollution in the Yamuna and untreated sewage is the biggest pollutant of the river. Sources of Pollution of the Yamuna in Delhi are as under:-

  • Supplementary Drains
  • Najafgarh Drain
  • Shahdara Drain
  • 19 drains (including 03 major drains) fall directly into river Yamuna
  • Further tributaries of Nalah fall into main three drains

Concept

An ETF Battalion akin to 137 Composite Ecological Task Force  (CETF) will be raised to rejuvenate river Yamuna in Delhi under Ministry of Jal Shakti. The Unit so raised will work on the similar lines in consultation with Delhi Jal Board (DJB) and technical support of the concerned agencies. The process required to be followed will entail the following:-

Identifying drains and polluted ghats and making a plan to treat them

  • The drain treatment plan will require the following to be done:-
    • Waste Water Management.
    • Initial solid waste separation.
    • Canna & Vetiver plantation along banks.
    • Check dams for sedimentation / stagnant water treatment.
    • Remediation floats/  heavy metal absorption with water hyacinth.
    • Clean Water as final outcome.
Afforestation

Conventional plantation of saplings (Creation & Maintenance) enhancing the soil moisture, increasing oxygen level & recharge for the depletion of groundwater regime thus improving the overall ecology. Vetiver slips planted along the river bank for riverbank stabilisation.

Wetland Rejuvenation

Wetlands at Wazirabad Biodiversity Park in Delhi will be treated with scientific techniques to include phytoremediation, bio floats, waste management techniques and biofilter strips.

Mass Awareness Programmes   

The Unit so raised shall organize and run mass awareness programmes from time to time and involve locals into the cleanliness drive. Lectures will be delivered in schools and colleges and the youth shall be educated on the concept and plan. It will be one of the KRAs of the Unit to have at least four mass awareness programmes organised in a year with maximum involvement of local masses. 

Large media coverage as applicable will be given to the activities performed by the Unit to have more number of supporters turning up to join hands.

Advantages

The advantages of raising an ETF Battalion for rejuvenation of river Yamuna will have the following advantages:-

  • A dedicated task force committed to the cause.
  • Military work culture hence supports from the civil administration.
  • No objection from civilians as the Unit will be legally authorised to carry out assigned tasks.
  • A systematic and scientific approach towards river rejuvenation.
  • Conventional afforestation in the river basin to check soil erosion.

Recommendations

It is recommended that one ETF Battalion with three companies akin to 137 CETF Battalion (Ganga Task Force) be raised in Delhi under Ministry of Jal Shakti for rejuvenation of River Yamuna.   

(River Yamuna is the second most important river after Ganga and is gradually depleting. The pollution is increasing every day through different means which needs immediate collective attention of the civil population and Govt agencies. There is an urgent need to revive an interest in River Yamuna and build public awareness about its importance as well as cultural history. Importance of floodplains, the river flows, wetlands and rejuvenation need to be understood by school children as well as citizens. Plans for building public awareness and cultural activities centred around the river need sustained promotion by Governments, National Mission for Clean Ganga (NMCG), Media & Educational Institutions.)