Feature image Signature bridge equipment, facilities still occupying large chunk of Yamuna riverbed as seen on July 25, 2020. In the backdrop DMRC phase IV bridge work has started raising, leveling large chunk of riverbed further. (Bhim Singh Rawat/SANDRP)
On February 16, 2020[i], SANDRP had raised the issue of large scale construction debris left and dumped in the riverbed of Yamuna along the bridges on NH 24 in Mayur Vihar. The area is opposite Sarai Kale Khan and close to Common Games Village.
Following this, the Delhi Yamuna Monitoring Committee (DYMC) constituted by National Green Tribunal (NGT) asked Delhi Development Authority (DDA), Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) to take action against the violation and submit Action Taken Report (ATR). In the following days a series of tweets were made by respective agencies with an assurance to look into the issue. After pursuing the matter persistently for three weeks, finally the DYMC informed that the debris have been removed from the site.
After that in wake of COVID-19 lockdown restriction, we could not visit the site to physically observe the riverbed restoration as was claimed by the various agencies from DDA to YMC on the basis of a report submitted by Delhi Pollution Control Committee (DPCC).
Now on July 25, 2020 SANDRP again visited the Mayur Vihar site. In addition, Signature bridge site was also visited to assess the ground situation as the site has also been experiencing evident abuse of Yamuna river and floodplain against which agencies involved had promised corrective actions.
Disappointingly, we found that not only the riverbed but the floodplain of river Yamuna have been grossly abused at both sites and actions as per NGT order and rule are missing.
Further on July 27, 2020, SANDRP assisted a five member team of DPCC including Shri Arif Muhammad, Senior Environment Engineer, Shri Krishan Kumar, Environment Engineer, and three staff to the aforesaid locations. Municipal Corporation Department (MCD) officials also accompanied to the signature bridge site, but not beyond.
The team examined violations during this inspection visit. This report is presenting the details of key observations, corroborated by DPCC team. We are also sharing latest self-explanatory photographs, videos and goggle earth images establishing the abuse and violations.
Yamuna Floodplain at Mayur Vihar site
The riverbed, floodplain which lies south of bridges on NH 24 comes under Mayur Vihar area just opposite Sarai Kale Khan. Outside the guide bund there, which is floodplain of the river Yamuna, approximately 8000 square metre or 0.8 hectare has been raised by 2 to 4 feet by dumping of debris including by Delhi Metro Rail Corporation (DMRC).
Large pieces of concrete waste can also be seen in the floodplain. There are more than 70 concrete cubes of 3 X3 size scattered all over the area. The DMRC has dumped and levelled construction debris 2 to 4 feet high for over 700 metres along its line creating a cross sectional embankment extending right upto currently active river water course.
Images of construction debris, concrete slabs, blocks, floodplain leveling as seen at Mayur Vihar during personal visit (July 25) and accompanying DPCC team on July 27, 2020. (Bhim Singh Rawat/SANDRP)
This wilful violations has been affecting flooding pattern of the river. The width of this illegal path varies from 5 to 15 metres.
Yamuna Riverbed at Mayur Vihar site
Inside the guide bund, approximately 20,000 square metre or 2 hectare has been raised by 3 to 5 feet using construction debris. The dumping, levelling and raising of riverbed is visible as close to as 15 metre from active course of water and underneath the road bridges.
Many warning boards by DDA are themselves erected on debris dumps apparently and seems to validating the violations, abuse of Yamuna riverbed. There are large chuck of concrete waste left in riverbed after completion of construction of bridges.
The cumulative impact of gross abuse of riverbed has resulted in dissecting an active water channel from Yamuna river. Over past 7 years, three new road bridges and one metro line have been constructed on a limited stretch along the river of about 170 metre. So now there are four double lane road bridges and one metro bridge passing though the river at the location.
Each bridge is having 14 pillars erected in active river course and riverbed. The size and shapes of pillars of three bridges including metro line varies from 8 meters in diameter and the rest two road bridges are having pillars of about 10 metre in length and 3 metre in width.
The cumulative impact of dumping, levelling and raising of riverbed and construction of these 70 pillars in a narrow stretch at the location have led to a bottle neck situation significantly obstructing smooth passage of flood waters.
As a result the floodplain on western side of CWG village goes under water while there is hardly any impact on floodplain lying in southern direction or across NH 24 road. The DPCC team agreed with all these observation during the inspection.
Two images first of Feb. 16, 2020 and second from July 27, 2020 shows the plastic waste of blue covered was removed from riverbed and dumped beneath the bridge. Is this called restoration? (Bhim Singh Rawat)
Shockingly the solid and plastic waste highlighted in pictures on February 16, 2020 have been dumped and levelled right beneath the road bridges on riverbed. The swamps and pits including the remaining part of disconnected water channel full of riverine vegetation at the location are living testimony of abuse of riverbed and floodplain by official agencies like DMRC and Public Works Department (PWD) in full knowledge of DDA and CPCB.
Self explanatory images taken on July 25 (Personal visit) & July 27, 2020 (with DPCC team) nailing bare DPCC, DDA claims of debris removal, riverbed restoration. (Bhim Singh Rawat/SANDRP)
Riverbed at Kale Khan
Raising and levelling of another approximately 8000 square metre riverbed across the river between metro line and Road Bridge is visible on Kale Khan side. This dumping has even exceeded the existing guide bund limit and clearly extended inside the river Yamuna itself, narrowing down river flowing path.
Further, one more about 20,000 square metre piece of river floodplain along ring road and NH 24 on Kale Khan side has been raised and levelled by company supplying concrete slabs, mixtures for construction activities in the area. The goggle earth images reveal significant damages to original floodplain.
Barely 1.5 km downstream is the location where construction work of Barapulla extension is in full swing. It has also compromised and blocked an active river course as highlighted earlier and as clearly visible in google earth images.
There is strong possibility that this construction activity would follow the prevalent practice of dumping and levelling of construction debris in riverbed and floodplain. To stop this, timely action and inspection by DYMC and all involved agencies is required.
Including this Barapula extension, there would be six bridges within 2 km length of river. These constructions work as cross sectional embankments, adversely affecting the river eco-system. There is urgent need to undertake a scientific study to look into the impacts of these bridges on river Yamuna.
Yamuna River at Signature Bridge
In April 18, 2019, we had highlighted the encroachment and construction debris chocking riverbed at Signature Bridge. During our visit on July 25, 2020 we found the riverbed still occupied by Signature Bridge contractors to park its vehicle, machines, and materials on eastern bank. Concretization work on riverbed has been also taking place.
In addition, the construction of new metro line bridge under Phase-IV of Majlis Park – Maujpur corridor has begun. The DMRC has enclosed, raised and levelled a huge part of riverbed there.
On western side, underneath the bridge, a dump of material used in manufacturing of surgical mask was seen. This issue was shared with DYMC and social media. We also showed our willingness in assisting concerned agencies for site inspection of areas where Yamuna riverbed, floodplain is facing threats.
Following this, on July 27, 2020, the DYMC asked us to accompany DPCC to various sites where we have found abuse of riverbed, floodplain. On the same day DPCC also requested us and we accompanied them to both sites. The violations and abuse seen by DPCC and SANDRP are as mentioned below.
The Signature Bridge construction company is still occupying an approximate area of 40,000 square metres active riverbed for parking its vehicles, equipment and other machinery. This area is earth filled and raised upto 4 feet outside the guide bund affecting flood passage in past few years.
The 2019 monsoon flood had also eroded portion of this encroachment. There is some concrete mixing activities also going on. The riverbed occupied by the Signature Bridge must be vacated and restored back to river river now.
Similarly, DMRC has raised level, flattened and enclosed a large portion of riverbed next to the Signature bridge encroachment. DPCC team was informed and shown gravity of violation and visible impacts.
It is surprising that these violations are occurring in the middle of monsoon season. An overdue flood spell would affect not only these encroachments but also the downstream areas.
Normally, riverbed are left undisturbed during monsoon to avoid flood disaster. Delhi is apparently following no such precaution as also evident from ongoing Barapulla extension construction work.
In addition to the encroachments, within about 600 metre of river stretch now a third bridge is being built between Signature Bridge and Wazirabad Barrage.
The executing agencies seem least bothered about disturbing, affecting river flowing course and even blocked, obstructed active river channels as seen at Mayur Vihar and Barapulla extension. The regulatory mechanism need to urgently look into this important aspect.
On the western bank, close to Signature Bridge the heap of surgical mask material was found by DPCC as well as some MCD officials who had come the site to confirm the incident.
As per latest update from DPCC to SANDRP, the surgical mask material has been removed from the site but the real test lie in undoing the impact due to Signature Bridge facilities, DMRC & construction debris still encroaching riverbed there. (Bhim Singh Rawat/SANDRP)
As per MCD, it was not bio-medical waste which we agreed, but saying that it’s not the material used to make surgical mask is entirely wrong. We also raised the issue of preventive measures to deter dumping of bio-medical waste there, for which no answer came forth.
The site is still replete with construction debris dumped during construction of Signature Bridge. Despite over one year of DYMC intervention the riverbed has not been fully restored there.
Riverbed and floodplains of Yamuna river have been abused at Mayur Vihar, Kale Khan, Barapulla extension site and Signature Bridge location. In all approximately 90,000 square metre area of riverbed, flood plain has been filled with construction debris in recent past.
The wilful but entirely avoidable blockage, obstruction of river channels and narrowing down river flowing path at these sites is not only sure invitation to flood disaster but will also ecologically ruin river Yamuna in the national capital.
Over all 23 bridges[ii] including rail, road, metro and barrages have been built and 3 are under construction in a limited stretch of 22 km on river Yamuna in Delhi. Thus on an average, there is a bridge at every 800 metre. The creation of new embankments, guide bunds to facilitate these construction are eating into significant area of already worst exploited riverbed and floodplain of Yamuna.
These structure are fragmenting the floodplain, promoting encroachments, and also leaving a trail of construction and demolition debris into riverbed and floodplains.
It is urgently necessary that all central and state government agencies including DMRC, PWD, DDA, DPCC, CPCB to seriously look into adverse aspects of these cross sectional embankments and should not permit any new bridge on river Yamuna until thoroughly studying and mitigating the impacts of existing ones.
DMRC and PWD stand as key encroachers of riverbed and floodplain while DDA, CPCB, DPCC have failed to make violators accountable and restore the damaged riverbed, floodplain.
At Mayur Vihar site precautionary boards and security guards have been placed at entry points to river which is welcome step but precautionary board have been erected next to construction debris and waste dumps revealing apathy of DDA.
At Signature Bridge locations neither precautionary boards nor security guards could be seen. Similarly, CCTV cameras have not been installed at these locations including bridge construction sites. These measures must be applied all along river to prevent further abuse of riverbed & floodplains.
During the current monsoon season a drone survey may be undertaken by DYMC to take stock, monitor and to study the impacts of encroachments and construction affecting river Yamuna and its flooding pattern[iii]. The river is also facing encroachment and waste dumping[iv] between Palla and Wazirabad stretch of river which has not been addressed so far.
Finally, as evident, at both sites Mayur Vihar and Signature Bridge visited by DPCC and SANDRP and prevailing situation at Kale Khan and Barapulla. DYMC may immediately conduct site visit with concerned officials from all involved agencies including DDA, PWD, MCD, Delhi Irrigation & Flood Control Department, DMRC, DPCC, CPCB and constitute high level inquiry into the violations, abuses mentioned above to undo/ mitigate/ compensate/ pay the price for the destruction and restore the riverbed and floodplain to as close as possible to the original status.
Bhim Singh Rawat (email@example.com)