(Feature Image: RMC plants located in active floodplain of Yamuna at Noida More submerged in flood water on Aug. 13, 2022. Image Credit:- Vikrant Tongad, SAFE)
A much awaited flood spell has flowed through Delhi during August 13-14, 2022. It came after more than two months of south west monsoon. Usually by this time, Yamuna river would have witnessed two or three flood spells in national capital lending a fresh lease of life to one of the most polluted rivers of India.
The small scale flood spell in the river has invaded parts of floodplains under abuse and encroachment by government agencies in open defiance of National Green Tribunal (NGT) January 13, 2015 judgement[i]. Apart from this flood, Delhi stretch of the river has witnessed few more abnormal events in this monsoon season so far.
On May 17, 2020 the residents of Ranwar village in Karnal woke up to find their village surrounded by gushing water current which was fast entering their homes. The cause of the flooding was a breach[i] in augmentation canal running close to the village.
The incident was allegedly caused by a small hole at 60.200 point on left bank of the canal around 03.00 am gradually turning into a 40 to 50 feet wide breach by the noon same day. Before the local administration could get into action, around 250 acres of farm lands around the village was flooded.
On August 21, 2019, the first big flood spell of monsoon season 2019 has passed through Delhi. The river swelled to cross first warning level 204.00 metre and then danger level 204.83 metre at Old Railway Bridge (ORB) Delhi, finally receding from 206.6 metre which is 0.89 meter short of 207.49 Highest Flood Level (HFL) set in 1978.
The delayed and much awaited flood spell hit the city after highest ever recorded discharge of 8.28 lakh cusec water for two hours from Hathini Kund Barrage (HKB), Yamuna Nagar in Haryana on August 18, 2019 at 05:00 pm and 6:00 pm. The highest since the commissioning of HKB in 2000. The water release this year has also surpassed the discharge of 7.09 lakh cusec the previous highest discharge recorded at Taje Wala Barrage (TWB) during the highest flood recorded in River Yamuna in September 1978. The British era TWB barrage, some 6 kilometre upstream of HKB was washed away in 2010 floods.
(Feature image by Nishant Panwar, Vikas Nagar, shows Yamuna River in upper reaches in Jan. 2019)
On April 11, 2019, is the birthday of Yamuna river. The Yamuna Jayanti comes every year on the sixth day of ‘Chaitra’ (summer) Navratra. The Kapat (door) of famous Yamnotri shrine would be opened this year on May 7 for Char Dham Yatra.
In April-May 2019 India will vote to elect 17th Lok Sabha or Parliament. On April 11, the 1st of the 7 polling days, the home state of Yamuna river, Uttrakhand and the districts of Western Uttar Pradesh through which Yamuna river flows, will vote.
The two other states heavily dependent and Yamuna river, Haryana and Delhi will see voting on May 12. The district Mathura, Agra, Etawa, Kanpur, Hamirpur, Fatehpur and Allahabad of Uttar Pradesh located along Yamuna river will witness voting from second (April 18) to sixth phase on May 12.
The NDA government come to power in May 2014 promising clean Ganga and Yamuna. The thousands of devotees of Mathura and residents of Agra were especially convinced of a promise of clean flowing Yamuna river. People were also hopeful that the government of the same party, BJP, in centre and in key basin states of Yamuna (Uttarakhand, Haryana and Uttar Pradesh) would bring a change in the situation. But over the five years, things have only deteriorated further. In fact, under the present government apart from dams and pollution a illegal sand mining has emerged as equally dangerous threat for the Yamuna rivers from upper reaches through middle and lower stretches.
On the occasion of Yamuna Jayanti, the Yamuna Nadi Mitra Mandli (YNMM) a voluntary group of villagers and concerned; established along the length of Yamuna by Yamuna Jiye Abhiyan is highlighting the issues affecting the Yamuna river and riparian communities which have remained unaddressed during past five years and none of the political parties even now have remotely focused on these. They also warn that ignoring the problems of Yamuna and dependent community will soon affect every state and dependent people in a significant way apart from endangering the river itself.
The release of around 1.31 lakh cusecs of water in Yamuna from Hathnikund barrage at 09:00 hours on July 26, 2018, was certainly first surge of flood this monsoon in the river. But no one expected, most are still in the dark that the release would multiply by over five times in just two days! It is almost a month after the Southwest monsoon arrived. By this time the river usually floods couples of times.
Looking at the lack of significant rainfall in the catchment area over past weeks, the flood is unexpected and has taken many by surprise. The Irrigation and Flood Control Department, Delhi Government has issued warning for flood plain farmers and human settlements close to river banks, but the warning does not seem to commensurate with the flood peak that is likely to hit the capital in next day or two.
Yamuna has already crossed warning (204 m) and danger level (204.83) at Old Delhi Railway Bridge (ORB), Delhi. The High Flood Level is 207.49 meters, reached on Sept 6,1978 after around 7 lakh cusecs (cubic feet per second) water was released in Yamuna on 3rd Sept 1978 at 04:00 hrs from Tajewala barrage, that was decommissioned and replaced by Hathnikund barrage in early 1990s. The flood monitoring of River Yamuna began in 1963.
Since then, the river has seen high floods in 1988, 1995, 2010 and 2013. The 2010 and 2013 floods also crossed 207 metres mark but fell short of 1978 level.
Location: Northwest India, Carved out of Punjab in 1st November 1966; Area: 44212 sq km. Mostly Gangetic/ Trans-Gangetic Plains; Population: 253.53 lakhs (2011); 4 River Basins, 21 Districts; Climate- Arid to semi-arid with average rainfall
Rivers in Haryana fall mainly within Indus and Ganga basins. River Ghaggar sub basin and its tributaries in the west of the state caters to the Indus basin, while river Yamuna and its tributaries in the east make up the portion of the Ganga basin.
(During monsoon the polluted river cleanses itself allowing migrant fishermen to move in and seek out their livelihood through fishing ; Photo by Burhaan Kinu)
The exploitation of Yamuna Rivers that starts in upper basin comprising Uttarakhand (UKH) and Himachal Pradesh (HP) gets worse as the river is dammed at Hathini Kund Barrage (HKB) while passing through Shivalik Hills located at the border of Haryana and Uttar Pradesh (UP), the barrage has severely compromised lean season (8-9 months) water flow in the river downstream.
As a result, the waterless riverbed resembles a desert till Delhi’s potable water is released back into the river at Palla village, the border of Delhi and Haryana. The absence of flow facilitates intensive illegal riverbed mining for sand and boulders for longer periods in a year which further destroys the river’s eco-system. More over industrial and domestic effluents in great volume from nearby towns reach the river via tributaries, storm water drains. Amid all this successive State Governments show no will to achieve even basic flow of freshwater in the river, even as they keep pushing more dams.
Here is an account of the projects planned and launched in 2016 related to the River Yamuna.
Shimla Gujran village on the other side of DN-2 (Photo by Vikas Sharma, village doctor who had to fix an air tight aluminimum framed glass door at his clinic to avoid to deadly stench)
The news of ammonia laden pollution entering Delhi’s water supply via Yamuna River has become more of a routine. The periodical nuisance forces closure of Delhi Jal Board (DJB) water treatment plants for few days, leading in disruption of water supply to lakhs of people. But as usual, within couple of days things fall back to normalcy until the cycle strike back.
The source of pollution remains undisclosed with only hint that the origin presumably a drain carrying pollutants from Haryana sneaks into river somewhere upstream of Delhi. Much is not talked or heard about the mystic drain and the problem largely remains unfixed. Haunted time and again Delhi Government has now installed one Ammonia-Neutralizers and planning to buy more as a remedial measures.
Tomorrow on 12th April is Yamuna Jayanti the birth anniversary of River Yamuna. The festival is also known as Yamuna Chhath and is celebrated on Shashthi sixth day of Shukla Paksha in Chaitra month that falls during Navratri. The auspicious day commemorates the decent of Goddess Yamuna on Earth and is therefore celebrated with great pomp and show in the city of Mathura and Vrindavan, Uttar Pradesh.
While thousands of devotees and dependents seek Yamuna’s blessing and wish the river to flow eternally and keep providing sustenance and livelihoods to millions on the occasion to celebrate the day SANDRP has managed to collect the latest pictures of the River all through its entire 1376km length right from Yamnotri the origin place till it merges into Ganga at Allahbad. The pictorial report clearly shows the bleak future of the river which is also the largest tributary of our national river the Ganga.
Delhi water supply from Yamuna River through Munak canal has been severely impacted by Jat quota stir as the violent mob has damaged the Munak canal. As a result thousands of Delhiites are facing great difficulty in securing potable water. By the time the canal based water supply is restored which may take about a month, the discharged of industrial effluents in Yamuna upstream by Haryana has forced shutting downof two water treatment plants further jeopardizing the already wrenched out water supply in Delhi.
Delhi water supply has become so vulnerable to causalities that experts have been rightly suggesting development and conservation of Delhi’s own water resources in terms of wetland protection, rain water harvesting etc. to deal with such crisis.
Apart from these two reasons there is a third bigger and still not known reason ignoring which may cause severest of water crisis in national capital and that is rampant mining of riverbed material around Hathini Kund Barrage (HKB). SANDRP in this blog try to highlight how the uncontrolled mining around HKB is endangering the barrage structure which in turn will surely lead to suspense of Delhi water supply for many months.