(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.
As joint monitoring report by Paryavaran Surakhsha Samiti (PSS) and Gujarat Pollution Control Board (GPCB) shows, Sabarmati is severely polluted river, downstream of Ahmedabad and is practically a dead river. Upstream of Ahmedabad, the once perennial river has no water of its own and is stealing the Narmada water meant for drought prone areas.
This incidentally is supposed to be model river rejuvenation as told to SANDRP coordinator on a television channel by no less than Executive Director (Technical) of National Mission on Clean Ganga. In fact posters during the 2014 Parliamentary elections in Varanasi, where Mr Modi fought from, said exactly that. So is the National Ganga river going down that path? Narmada itself is in same situation downstream of the dam in Gujarat as another report here shows. Gujarat model has many examples to show, it seems.
On November 16, 2017, the Supreme Court (SC) of India, prohibited 82 large lease holders from mining sand and stone activities in absence of scientific replenishment study. The ban continued all through the year of 2018 and so were the incidents of illegal sand mining and violent attacks on police officials.
The ban has reportedly hampered some development projects. The prices of sand has increased. Meanwhile the mining department is seen making efforts in exploring Manufactured Sand (M-Sand) as an alternative though it seems there is not much success as yet.
Two interesting orders from National Green Tribunal (NGT) marked important developments on water-environment issues this week. NGT asking for PERFORMANCE AUDIT of pollution Control Mechanism is indeed long overdue necessity, considering the complete, abject failure of the pollution control mechanism in India. The hopes of effective action, like in the past, however, were dashed since CPCB, which is PART OF THE PROBLEM has been asked to do the audit. An independent audit, in addition to one possibly by CAG may have helped. https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/Delhi/ngt-slams-state-pollution-bodies/article26008687.ece (17 Jan. 2019)
Whatever positive signs were available by this order were further dashed by another NGT order in which it declared that EIAs (Environmental Impact Assessment) reports are already taking climate change into account, while the tribunal dismissed a petition asking that all development activities be screened/ regulated keeping climate change in mind.
This is totally WRONG contention. Just to illustrate, SANDRP has been pointing out to the EAC, MoEF and the developers how the EIAs of dams and hydropower projects are ignoring the climate change related issues and impacts. In response the consultants and developers have responded, approved by the silent or spoken nods by the EAC and MoEF that these were not even part of their TORs! One only wishes NGT was most discerning before making such claims and would have gone through a few EIAs to see if at all EIAs are dealing with these issues with any rigour or credibility. https://www.business-standard.com/article/pti-stories/climate-change-already-covered-under-environment-impact-assessment-ngt-119011600897_1.html (16 Jan. 2019)
Best Advertisement of What Dam Building can do. Great Expose by NYT: “The dam sits under the glare of an active volcano, with columns of ash spewing toward the sky. Officials had warned against the dam for decades. Geologists said an earthquake could wipe it away. Now, only two years after opening, thousands of cracks are splintering the dam’s machinery. Its reservoir is clogged with silt, sand and trees.
In case of the 3097 MW Etalin project being developed by Jindal and Arunachal Pradesh govt, the IE report says: “the WII was asked by the Ministry (MoEF) to assess the feasibility of the plan that requires 1,166 hectares of forestland in the valley. The Ministry’s move followed a recommendation from its Forest Advisory Committee (FAC) to conduct an environment impact assessment study. Instead, the WII initiated a study to find how the project’s impact on wildlife can be minimised”. Thus instead of doing the mandated scientific impact assessment, the WII initiated a study to minimise the project’s impact.
Feature image: A Hindu woman worships the sun god in the polluted waters of River Yamuna during Chhath Puja in New Delhi, on Nov. 14. (Image Source: Quartz India.)
In its latest report, the National Green Tribunal (NGT) appointed monitoring committee overseeing Yamuna River cleaning progress in Delhi says that the river is “fighting to stay alive” and it would not be possible to rejuvenate the Yamuna unless minimum environmental flow is provided as it is “virtually reduced to a trickle and remains dry in some stretches for almost nine months of the year”.
In the action plan, it is mentioned that “Although the Yamuna river flows only for 54 kilometres from Palla to Badarpur through Delhi, the 22 km stretch from Wazirabad to Okhla, which is less than 2 per cent of the river length of 1370 km from Yamunotri to Allahabad, accounts for about 76 per cent of the pollution level in the river”.
The committee has suggested that a team of scientists be formed from CPCB, DPCC and other institutions like IIT Delhi or NEERI to carry out inspections and submit reports to it for remedial action. The team can look into the risks and benefits of an alternative way of routing the same quantity of water which can help in reducing the pollution level, it said.
The monitoring committee also raised objection to the capacity utilisation of common effluent treatment plant (CETP) which is as low as 25 per cent. There are 28 industrial clusters in Delhi and 17 of these are connected to 13 CETPs. The remaining 11 clusters are not connected to any CETP. Another area of concern is the direct discharge of completely unregulated waste from industries and residences into the river.
21 November is celebrated as world fisheries day across the world. Apart from crucial source of food and livelihood to lakhs of fisherfolks in India, fish diversity determines the health of the water body including lakes, ponds and rivers. However with growing threats and pollution mass fish mortality has been taking place in various rivers and lakes in the country every year. On World Fisheries Day 2018 SANDRP has put together known mass fish kill incidents that took place this past year to highlight the gravity of threat so that corrective measures can be taken by respective Governments and others concerned.
(Feature image showing preparation of Kumbh 2019 at Prayagraj by Siddharth Agarwal of Veditum)
EDIT article in SCIENCE magazine by TUSHAR SHAH and others on Ganga: “The quickest, cheapest, and most effective way for Mr. Modi to show a less polluted Ganga by 2019 would be operating dams and barrages in the Ganga basin with the sole objective of augmenting river flows. This would be a start to controlling discharge of untreated sewage and industrial waste, which will take a long time.” http://science.sciencemag.org/content/362/6414/503 (2 Nov. 2018)
DOWN TO EARTH says about Ganga: “the river will continue to run as – and even more – polluted as ever… Till August 31, 2018, only a little more than a quarter of the total number of projects sanctioned under it (Namami Gange) had been completed… according to CPCB’s Water Quality Map, only five out of the 70-odd monitoring stations on the river had water that was fit for drinking; only seven had water that was fit for bathing…”
-“Down To Earth quotes a study report and CPCB data to say that the actual measured discharge of wastewater into the Ganga is 123 per cent higher than what has been estimated…”
-“Numerous hydroelectric projects on the Bhagirathi and Alaknanda have turned the upper stretches of the Ganga into ecological deserts, says the Down To Earth assessment. The baseflow amount of the river has decreased by a huge 56 per cent in 2016, as compared to the 1970s.”
– “about 180 MLD of sludge will be generated in the five Ganga Basin states (Uttarakhand, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Jharkhand, West Bengal) when they become ODF. If proper sludge management is not done, this would invariably pollute the Ganga. What should cause further concern is that faecal sludge is a bigger pollutant than sewage – while BOD of sewage is 150-300 mg/litre, that of faecal sludge would be 15,000-30,000 mg/litre.” https://www.cseindia.org/ganga-may-not-flow-clean-in-the-near-future-says-new-analysis-9085 (30 Oct. 2018)