The River Yamuna……..a divinity, yet dead.

Efforts to bring back a river…..an important one, as millions have and still depend on it since eternity.

Rivers are natural resources to the world.

The river Yamuna is one of the two biggest rivers (other being Ganges) which flow through the world’s largest river basin – The Ganga river Basin. This basin area is approximately 1,086,000 square kilometers and has a population of 500million. This area is also the land to one of the most ancient civilization known.

Religious / Spiritual Reverence.

As part of a timeless civilization, the river Yamuna, other than being a traditional water resource, is also a cultural icon and is worshipped as a goddess in Indian Culture. A little inquiry into ancient Indian scriptures, rituals, art forms, traditional vocation, festivities or even the National Anthem shall vividly bring forward the esteem and glory that this Grand River holds, even in present times. In Hinduism, many begin their day by chanting the glories of River Yamuna and any prayer to Lord Almighty is considered incomplete without salutations to the river. The river Yamuna is considered to be a favorite of Lord Himself and in thousands of temples of North India; the deities are bathed daily with its waters. Many a temple towns are situated along its banks that have their characters based on the River and its religious tourism, the most famous being Vrindavan, Mathura, Agra and Gokul.

Ironically, the river once pride of Indian civilization is now a dead river.

Officially Dead

Indian government’s own websites claim that there is not a drop of natural river water after it

flows through Delhi. (WATER QUALITY STATUS OF YAMUNA RIVER (1999 – 2005) http://www.cpcb.nic.in/newitems/11.pdf.)

The United Nations website has a report declaring the river a dead one.

http://www.unhabitat.org/content.asp?typeid=19&catid=460&id=2170

Any individual in India shall tell you the same.

Here is why.

Hathini Kund Stretch.

1.At Hathini Kund Barrage,

all most, 97% of natural fresh waters are taken away after a few kilometers of its birth.This withdrawal which is made in the name of irrigation, industrial development and drinking water is grossly mismanaged and reckless with little or no accountability. In most places, the river is a sudsy, listless morass of human, industrial and agricultural wastes, literally an open sewer. In some places, the Yamuna is now so heavily exploited that broad parts of riverbed lie naked and exposed to the sun for much of the year.

2. New Delhi Stretch. 

On its course, whatever little reaches New Delhi through various canals is soaked away by it down to the last drop.(Interestingly, New Delhi supplies 221 liters per day per person to its people, one of the highest compared to even most rich cities of the world). It also has a record of 40 % of water losses in transmissions since years.

New Delhi marks the end of river. What flows beyond is simply partially treated sewage of Shahdra drain of Delhi and other smaller drains both domestic and industrial (not one drop of original fresh water from the river). The point where Shahdra drain meets River Yamuna, The Central Pollution Control Board of India in its January 2010 report gives an average of 51.3 BOD – Biological oxygen demand per liter (Max permissible for Bathing is 3) for 10 months with a high of 103 BOD. There is however NO Dissolved Oxygen at any given time (minimum should be 6 mgl). The total coli forms count at one point was 23,00,00,00,000 (max permissible is 5000).

Delhi sewage contributes 71 % of the pollution to River Yamuna while it only has 2% of the total length of 1376 km of the entire stretch of Yamuna (cpcb 1996). It is noteworthy that Delhi has 40 % of the total sewage treatment capacity of India with hardly 3 % of India’s population when India has a capacity to treat only 18.6 % of its sewage (cpcb 2006). Even the best of its available sewage treatment technologies or the ones being installed in the future do not have the capacity to bring down BOD (Biological Oxygen Demand- chief parameter of water quality) to 15 Mg/Ltr while India’s own standards have a bench mark of 3 Mg/Ltr.

 3. Lack of Dilution Capacity.

No amount of treatment can bring the qualities of Fresh natural water in a river. Even the much hyped & expensive interceptor sewerage project will not restore the river to class C—bathing quality (Biochemical oxygen demand (BOD)-3mg/l) waters as ordered by the Supreme Court of India. The project promises to reduce the BOD discharged by Najafgarh and Shahdara drains to about 12 mg/l that too under the condition that if and only if all planned interceptions take place. No projections for coli form counts are available.

The report is also silent on the water quality parameters in the river Yamuna after the implementation of the project. The river needs dilution capacity – minimum ecological flow at all costs. Any river does. Flows are needed for maintaining the river regime, making it possible for the river to purify itself, sustaining aquatic life and vegetation, recharging groundwater, Support livelihoods, facilitating navigation, preserving estuarine conditions, preventing the incursion of salinity, and enabling the river to play its role in the cultural and spiritual lives of people.” The latter appears to be a very important component in the Indian context.

Faith No More

Millions of religious/spiritual tourist visits 3 important temple towns on River Yamuna every year (Government figures – 11.3 millions/2010). The unofficial figures are much more. There are many more religiously significant towns on the river course whose figures are not accounted for. It is a shame that they are duped into bathing and drinking the filthiest of waters as none of them realize that it is only poisonous sewage. Their spiritual emotions and faith are being hoodwinked.

Government’s Apathy and its Ecological Costs

A river is a natural watercourse flowing towards an ocean, a lake, a sea, or another river. Killing it is a simple task. Take away its waters and hence its flow. Pollute it (contaminate its natural freshness). The Indian Government has been so efficient to do this to Yamuna River.

The ecological impact has been immense-with the aquatic wildlife disappearing as fishes, turtles, alligators and others dependant on fresh river water dying in the toxic industrial pollutants and sewage

World Heritage and one of the Seven Wonders of the World, Taj Mahal situated on its banks is under threat as conservationists fear a dry Yamuna river would weaken the wood-based foundation of the Taj Mahal, which requires moisture.

An article in the British medical journal The Lancet warned that bacteria in New Delhi drinking water carry a gene, NDM-1 (New Delhi metallobetalactamase), for an enzyme that conveys resistance to almost all known antibiotics. Resistant bacteria turned up “in public water used for drinking, washing and food preparation and also in pools and rivulets in heavily populated areas where children play,” according to lead author Tim Walsh of Cardiff University. An estimated 500,000 people in New Delhi now carry resistant bacteria, which have also appeared in Europe, North America and other parts of Asia.

Medical authorities worry that the rapid spread of this form of resistance could imperil all kinds of routine medical procedures that depend on the ability to treat infections. “If resistance destroys that ability,” British health official David Livermore told The Wall Street Journal, “then the whole edifice of modern medicine crumbles. Ironically, many cities and towns downstream of Delhi source their drinking waters from the Yamuna River (simply sewage {not a drop from Original River} that flows to them in the guise of river water).

 Civil Society Protests

Given that millions people depend on the river for bathing and drinking water, occupation and above all their spiritual/religious emotional needs, a Protest was inevitable. In April 2011, thousands came out when a foot march was taken by up some saints along the river’s 600 kilometer worst polluted stretch. The towns and cities along the river banks got active on this dormant issue. The people, Non Profit organizations and the media took it up in a big way. This made the issue only larger. There were big protests in various cities like New Delhi, Mumbai, Agra and Mathura.

It was business as usual for the authorities who responded with little actions and formation of inquiries which lead to nowhere. Interestingly, a 20 year old court case over pollution in River Yamuna had let to creation of a Government’s High Powered Committee with due recognition of the Supreme Court of India. This expert committee had formed several short and long term measures to ensure that a basic adequate flow of Fresh Natural Water is maintained throughout the river stretch. Predictably, nothing has materialized despite the directions of the committee.

 The alternative to Democracy is Better Democracy.

If the democratically elected government of the world’s largest democracy wishes to:

• Restore its country’s fundamental right to religious practices. Millions of Indians have spiritual, religious and emotional attachment to the River Yamuna. The State guarantees rights to every citizen to practice religion in his own way and beliefs.

• Implement its fundamental duty (Indian Constitution Article 48-A): “The State shall endeavor to protect and improve the environment and to safeguard the forests and wildlife of the country.

• Not confront its citizen’s right (Indian Constitution Article 51-A (g)): “It shall be the duty of the citizen of India to protect and improve the natural environment including forests, lakes, rivers and wildlife and to have compassion for living creatures.

• Ensure Right to clean drinking water: Even the worst forms of Governances ensure right to Drinking Water to its citizens. Ironically, the courts have passed several judgments on the issue of providing clean drinking waters in towns / cities situated on the banks of River Yamuna.

• Ensure Right to livelihood: Thousands of fishermen villages are displaced; Thousands of acres farming lands are useless along its banks due to severely polluted waters which make groundwater contaminated and hence land unfertile.

 The Government should amongst several other measures, do the following:

•The river needs a basic minimum flow of its natural fresh water to maintain its ecology. The immediate need is to allow fresh natural waters to be released from Hathini Kund Barrage (see illustration). Also, legal commitments should be made by the government so that this flow is maintained for all times to come.

•The Yamuna River bed in Delhi is right now only being used as a canal to transport Delhi’s sewage to Agra Canal. A high powered committee (approved by the Supreme Court of India in a land mark case against pollution in Yamuna) proposed a Trunk Sewage Canal parallel to the Yamuna River in Delhi bed to act as a replacement to Yamuna Bed. The government should start building it now.

•This withdrawal which is made in the name of irrigation, industrial development and drinking water should be managed efficiently. It is ironical that when the Prime Minister of the country asks the farmers of a state to adopt certain farming practices which can reduce water consumption by half, nobody in the government machinery listens (http://pmindia.nic.in/ lspeech.asp?id=907). This saved water together with recycling of water by industries and better water governance can easily bring back the much needed minimum ecological flow in the river Yamuna.

 Rivers are natural resources to the world.

We have been working to protect, preserve and rejuvenate similar natural resources like Hills, Water bodies and Forests of a well known area called Braj in India. We have had tremendous success. Some of them are:

•Freeing 5300 hectares of Wilderness Hills from Mining and getting them declared as Protected Forests.

•Repairing and restoring 30 large water Bodies in areas with scant water.

•Planting of thousands of plants in deforested area and helping rejuvenate ancient forests.

•Building and maintaining a large reserve of neglected cattle stock.

•olding of Inspirational / Educational Camps and marches dedicated to saving environment.

We, Braj Dham Seva Inc. (USA) and Maan Mandir Seva Sansthan Trust (India) are groups of individuals from different parts of the world inspired by a living legend and visionary – Shri Ramesh Baba Ji Maharaaj.

We urge your esteemed organization to step in and act to your capacity and help retrieve one of the important rivers on the planet.

There are more sensitive evidence, in the form of government committee reports, articles, videos and images which can also be provided.