In new year 2016, State Government of Uttarakhand must act against burgeoning amount of solid and liquid waste being put in Yamuna River in its home land.
River Yamuna appears flowing pollution and waste free in Himalayan stretch. But close observations go against this popular notion and paints grim picture of huge amount of waste finding its way in the river on a daily basis. This account highlights the issue in detail and urges State Govt. of Uttarakhand (UK) to take remedial actions before it is too late to reverse the degradation of the River.
Yamnotri is famous shrine and thousands of pilgrims and tourists frequent the place during Char-Dham Yatra held every year. These visitors, in absence of better options or for hygienic reasons prefer using bottled water, packaged foods (biscuits, snacks) and plastic disposals as food servings. As a result solid waste in massive amount is generated through the pilgrimage season which ultimately goes into the holy river. It’s worrying that this has become a norm for past many years.
The associated service industries – hotels, shops, restaurants, food courts, tea-stalls etc also end up generating huge amount of solid waste and liquid waste on daily basis. All these facilities have been closely set up by the roads along the river course. Within next few days, the entire waste in pieces or in piles reaches the river and also gets deliberately disposed off in same by the local people and appointed sweepers. There is great absence of proper waste disposal facilities. Lack of awareness, indifference and training of involved stakeholders (Hotel Industry, Traders Body and District Council) is only making the problem worse.
Wet-latrines next to Yamuna at Janak Chatti (Photo in June 2015 Image by Author)
The ban on poly bags in the State is not effective at all. District administration, the only implementing agency is never serious about it. The rest are least bothered about the open violations. In fact thousands of devotees are served Prasad and other religious stuff in poly bags right at Yamnotri. After holy bath at shrine devotes carelessly throw their worn and torn cloths mostly made of synthetic fiber in the river which soon heaps up there. The toilet facility at shrine is reported to be discharging the sewage in the river.
Plastic raincoats are used in large number and discarded soon, adding to the waste pile. Several small tea-stalls, goods stalls and eateries set up along 5 km climb up track between Janaki Chatti and Yamnotri either burn or just push the waste created by them down the slope.
Solid waste falling in Yamuna at Kharadi, June 2015 Photo by Author
Hundreds of mules are used for ferrying younger, elderly and physically unfit pilgrims through final track. There is a mule-standing point hardly 10 meters before the shrine where they pause and very often relieve themselves. As a result mule dung is heaped up there which is thoughtlessly washed down in the river with runoff water during rain. No intervention has been thought of or initiated to address the menace by concerned stake holders.
Tourism Department of UK and District Council of Uttarkashi seems not to be left behind in getting Yamuna more polluted. They find no place other than untouched banks of natural streams feeding Yamuna to develop the relieving facilities. The site of dozens of wet-toilet next to Yamuna at Janaki Chatti 5 km down streams Yamnotri created by District Council put question mark on State Govt. intentions to make or keep Yamuna clean. This is the case with most of the smaller and perennial streams along Yamuna in hilly stretch.
Naugaon Khad filled with solid waste Photo by Author
The public toilet facilities at Barkot and Naugaon are worth a mention. Barkot and Naugaon are growing market hubs and function as administration units. There are public toilet complexes built by Sulabh International on the natural spring (locally known as Khads) at both places. Every day hundreds of people are using the facilities. In addition, all the solid and liquid waste generated in market is disposed in these Khads which immediately reaches Yamuna running down the hill. One wonders if it happens as part of thought-through planning.
Part of solid waste Barkot produces is dumped in a waste collection site again built close to river. Most of it is burnt and the rest reaches Yamuna with air currents and rain runoff. The remaining waste is dumped in a Khad next to the town which easily get flushed in Yamuna during floods. This is the story of every small or big local town sitting along the river like Janki Chatti, Hanuman Chatti, Rana Chatti, Syana Chatti, Kharadi, Naugaon, Burnigad, Damta, Nain Bagh and Poanta Sahib (HP) etc. Majority of hotels enroute Yamnotri secretly release sewage directly in Yamuna or in streams joining Yamuna if not during lean than during monsoon season.
Landfill site built close to river Yamuna at Barkot, Photo by Author
The scenario at Vikas Nagar, Dehradun is grim and worst, where huge portion of riverbed has been converted into a dumping yard by Nagar Palika Vikas Nagar. Local people have raised the issue many a time but the agency has developed a tendency to overlook it. All this, apparently exposes State Govt. and concerned agencies’ poor efforts in understanding and protecting River Yamuna.
Don’t let Yamuna become a dump yard
Massive amount of solid waste is being dumped in river during Char-Dham pilgrimage right from Yamnotri. Also many of the small-big market places and towns along the river put all their waste in natural springs which soon reaches Yamuna. Govt. agencies and known NGOs have built toilets facilities on many natural streams. This has led to presence of fecal coliforms in the river and rendering the water unpotable even within mountainous stretch where it looks so pristine. This is a very serious issue and efforts by State Govt. are insufficient and counterproductive. It must provide waste collection, segregation and recycling infrastructure along the river as well as conduct training workshop of stake holders. Also setting up toilet facilities away from river and streams is highly desirable. Govt. even can go for composting toilets like one built by Tilak Ramola at Naugaon.
Waste dumped on Yamuna riverbed by Nagar Palika, Vikas Nagar, Photo June 2015 by Author
Tilak Ramola with Composting Toilet at Naugaon
Hope the concerned agencies in 2016 take appropriate actions against huge amount of waste being dumped in Yamuna by District Councils Barkot, Naugaon, Burnigad, Nain Bagh and finally Nagar Palika Vikas Nagar town. Hope the state Govt. of Uttarakhand, Union Water Resources Ministry, National Mission on Clean Ganga, Union Environment Ministry, Union Water Resources Minister Sushri Uma Bharti, state and central pollution control boards, Hindu religious organisations take a note of the issue and inititiate urgent necessary actions to make Yamuna a waste free river in its home land in the year 2016.
With this positive note I wish Yamuna and all the readers a very Happy New Year!
B S Rawat (firstname.lastname@example.org) SANDRP