(Feature Image: DN 8 full of untreated effluents near GTK road on May 13, 2023. Bhim Singh Rawat)
In the past, the Storm Water Drains (SWD) used to be seasonal streams feeding Yamuna river in upper segment of Haryana. After introduction of canal based irrigation system, most of the SWDs dissected by Western Yamuna Canal (WYC) networks have been converted into flood escape channels.
In recent decades, many of these SWDs have been degraded into waste water disposal drains. The Dhanaura escape in Karnal, Drain Number (DN) 2 in Panipat and DN 6 in Sonepat districts of Haryana state are glaring example of the deliberate abuse.
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.
The stretch of Yamuna River & its floodplain lying between Palla and Wazirabad Barrage in Delhi is still in reasonably good state. Though bisected by an embankment, the floodplain is free of too many recent major encroachments. The River keeps meandering between physical boundaries of Delhi and Gaziabad district of Uttar Pradesh on the other side. The average width of floodplain from embankment to embankment is 2 kilometres. The width of active river current varies from 200-300 metres.
Most parts of the floodplain on both sides of this embankment are under agriculture. The crops grown here includes paddy, vegetables and floriculture as cash crops apart from wheat, traditional riverbed crops of melons, cucumber, tomato and bottle guards etc. Use of chemicals is also growing. There is not much information available about the impact of chemical farming on floodplain and river eco system.
Feature image showing drain number 6 with industrial pollution running along drain number 8 which carries raw water for potable water supply to Delhi. The over spill in drain number 6 is plugged with sand bags. Image by author, May 11, 2019
Role of Drain Number 8
About 300 cusec of water is supplied to Delhi via Drain Number (DN) 8. The drain branches off from Western Yamuna Canal (WYC) near Garhi Bindroli village in Sonipat. The total length of the drain is about 25 km. It carries Delhi’s share of water and discharges it into River Yamuna at Palla, where the river enters Delhi territory.
The water then flows 21 km downstream up to Wazirabad barrage where it is treated at Wazirabad Treatment Plant (WTP). This plant also supplies water to New Delhi Municipal Council (NDMC) areas which includes President House, Parliament areas among other prominent VIP residential units.
Fisher-folks know a river better than most others. Fish diversity is unfailing indicator determining river health. Unfortunately given the pollution load and lack of fresh flowing water, the Delhi stretch of Yamuna river is biologically dead. Hence fishing activities are rare and not much is known about the current fishermen community.
Situation was better in the past. Many people still fondly recollect, memory of bathing in a pristinely flowing Yamuna in Delhi around 1970s. They also describe their narrative of enjoying plenty of fish variety. Elderly in Greater Noida even claim watching ‘Sush’ dolphin in the river during their childhood.
Now the river is in continual degradation. It gets some clean water during monsoon, when adjoining areas face flood threat.
(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.
Every year on the sixth day of summer Navratra the birthday of Yamuna river is celebrated. This year it was on 23 March 2018. On this occasion, SANDRP has prepared a photo blog covering almost entire length of the river. The Yamuna Mitra Mandali (YNMM) (Friends of Yamuna River) group established by Yamuna Jiye Abhiyan has essential contributed for this pictorial blog.
The photo blog tries to show the present day situation of river Yamuna and activities of YNMM on the day of Yamuna Jayanti.
Yamuna River is infamous as one of the most polluted rivers of the country. A mere thought of Yamuna, brings the picture of a stinking black water course, in the mind of most of the concerned. But the initial 26 km of the River in Delhi from Palla upto Wazirabad Barrage presents a totally different Yamuna.
Unlike the city part, the river here has clean flowing water. Natural vegetations can be seen standing tall along still inviolate banks. Sighting of riparian birds in good number offers great solace from robotic city life. Few in-know of this secret, go fishing here during leisure and weekends. Farming activities on adjoining lands adds rustic charm to the panorama. If this is not enough, nearby floriculture strips, turns the riverbank colourful.
The river water is bathing quality. Many fresh water birds flock around. Herders take out cattle. Fishermen catch fish. Boatmen ferry visitors on demand. Devotees bath in the river and say prayers. Farmers remain busy with cultivation.
Annual flood marks are visible. It replenishes ground water and enriches the soil. Floodplains are still spared of concretization. All this contributes to make the river live and lovely.
Above: Zindapir Shrine at Sukkur Photofrom: British Library
Perhaps we all have our pet projects which we wish would go on forever. I have been working on a Primer on Riverine Fisheries of South Asia for some years now (my office may disagree with the definition of ‘some’). Like a magpie collecting shiny knick-knacks, I keep collecting (quite serendipitously, or so I think) anecdotes and interviews and snippets on the subject. Continue reading “Jhulelal or Zindapir: River Saints, fish and flows of the Indus”→