A note on how to kill a river
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). Take away more waters (pollute it even more for lack of dilution capacity). Pollute it further. Keep repeating the above (nobody bothers).
Indians have been very efficient to do this to Yamuna River. Let’s go by the official records first which clearly shows the non compliance of Supreme Court – High Powered Commiittee – Short term measure? The Central Pollution Control Board says in its report – WATER QUALITY STATUS OF YAMUNA RIVER (1999 – 2005) http://www.cpcb.nic.in/newitems/11.pdf.
The River Yamuna is the largest tributary of River Ganga with a total basin area of 366223 km2 which covers part of geographical area in the states of Uttaranchal, Uttar Pradesh, Himachal Pradesh, Haryana, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and NCT – Delhi.
Arising from the source, the river flows through series of curves and rapids for about 120 km to emerge into Indo-Gangetic plains at Dak Patthar in Uttaranchal. At Dak Patthar the river water discharge is regulated through a weir & diverted into a canal for irrigation and power generation. From Dak Patthar it flows down through famous Sikh religious center Paonta Sahib (Himachal Pradesh) and reaches Hathnikund.
In Hathinikund in a Haryana district where the major part of river water is diverted again into Eastern & Western Yamuna canals for irrigation. In dry season, no water is allowed to flow in the river, downstream to Hathnikund barrage. The river is almost dry in some stretches between Hathnikund and Delhi. Downstream of Hathnikund the river regain water from ground water accrual and contributions of feeding canals and small tributaries etc. From Hathnikund the river sluggishly meanders and reaches Delhi at Palla after travelling a distance of about 224 km.
At Wazirabad the river is trapped again through a barrage for drinking water supply to urban aglameration at Delhi. From Wazirabad barrage no water is allowed to flow down particularly during summer, as the available water in the river is not adequate to fulfill the water supply demand of Delhi. The water flows in the Yamuna River downstream of Wazirabad is the treated, partially treated or untreated domestic & industrial wastewater contributed by various drains joining river Yamuna and canal water.
After 22 km downstream from Wazirabad barrage the Yamuna water is again blocked and diverted into Agra Canal for irrigation through another barrage at Okhla. At downstream Okhla barrage the water flows in the river is the drain water of domestic & industrial origin contributed mainly by Shahdara drain. After travelling a distance of around 166 km, the river reaches at Mathura from where again a major part of water is diverted for drinking water supply through Gokul barrage.
The Yamuna from Gokul barrage after receiving water through other important tributaries and city drains joins river Ganga at Allahabad after traversing about 790 km via cities of Agra, Bateshwar, Etawah, Hamirpur and Pratapgarh.
During non-monsoon period the Yamuna cannot be designated as a continuous river but segregated into four independent segments due to the presence of three barrages from where almost the entire water is being diverted for various human activities.
The sources contributing pollution are both point & non-point type. Urban agglomeration at NCT – Delhi is the major contributor of pollution in the Yamuna River followed by Agra and Mathura. About 85% of the total pollution in the river is contributed by domestic sources. The condition of river deteriorates further due to abstraction of significant amount of river water, leaving almost no fresh water in the river, which is essential to maintain the assimilation capacity of the river.
Efforts and judicial orders
The Public interest petition case titled Cdr Sureshwar D Sinha Vs Union of India W.P.(C) 537 of 1992.was filed to seek the enforcement of measures to stop the high rate of pollution in the river Yamuna at Delhi. It also sought court’s orders to permit fair levels of water flow in the rivers Ganga and Yamuna that have been severely curtailed depriving millions of people in downstream areas, of the benefits of these rivers. The Supreme Court recognized High Powered committe put forward various short term & Long term measures. Among them were the follows:
(b) Since the availability of even 10 cumecs of fresh water in the river particularly along Delhi will not be adequate for the purpose of dilution of treated waste water to bring its BOD down to the desired level, construction of a truck sewerage system along the Delhi stretch of the river (between Wazirabad and Okhla) to carry the treated waste water up to Okhla for irrigation purposes is necessary. From Okhla, the treated sewage water should be entirely diverted for irrigation through the existing canal system.
(c) For this purpose, a quick survey and investigation may be undertaken by the Government of Delhi to assess the feasibility and cost of such a treated sewage water diversion system. This exercise should be completed by the Delhi Government in three months by engaging a team of professional consultants.
(d) Chairman indicated that once the cost estimates were available, it should be possible for National Capital Territory of Delhi to find funds for implementation of this project from its plain out lay over a period of two years.
(e) It was informed that Haryana was already transferring 4 cumecs of fresh water through the Yamuna channel in Delhi for irrigation purposes in South Haryana. This water is being put into the river just below Wazirabad barrage. It was decided that the riparian states, in a mutually agreed ration should ensure release of the remaining 6 cumecs for purposes of maintaining a minimum flow of 10 cumecs of fresh water in the river. With the diversion of the entire treated sewage water away from the river, the 10 cumecs of fresh water will remain fresh in the river throughout. It was felt that the diverted treated waste water rich in nutrients from Delhi will be quite suitable for irrigation purposes in U.P. and Haryana.
Ideally, the solution sought was within reach if the measures and orders were implemented in spirit.
However: The proposed Trunk sewer running parallel to Yamuna bed is nowhere in sight physically or mention. There was a funding concern raised when a rough estimate of 1000 crores was put forward.
Consider the luxury Delhi enjoys in contrast: The people of Delhi get a Delhi Jal Board estimate of 211 liters of water per capita daily which is far more as compared to more richer and prosperous cities of the world. 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). It is worth mentioning here that 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 has an estimated net State Domestic Product (FY 2007) of crore (US$26.24 billion) in nominal terms and crore (US$74.68 billion) in PPP terms, Economic Survey of Delhi, 2005–2006. Planning Department, Government of National Capital Territory of Delhi. It was host to Commonwealth Games in 2010 which was to showcase India’s capabilities. Thousands of crores were spent. Special acts were passed to ensure unhindered progress of Delhi Metro Railway implementation which would smooth the traffic of Delhi. Again thousands of crores were spent. The point being made is that to ensure a superior image of India, to ensure smooth traffic for Delhi people thousands of crores can be spent. Challenging engineering projects of Delhi Metro can be achieved. Special acts can be passed. And yet a Supreme Court High Powered Committee measure cannot be implemented for a 1000 crores.
Is the canal a difficult engineering proposition or the funds too difficult compared to other achievements of Delhi?
It is not difficult to assess that trillions of rupees cannot create a Yamuna river. In all recorded history, civilizations have been built around rivers and not visa – versa. The original petition asked for an adequate flow of Original Natural fresh water of Yamnotri to flow on Yamuna bed throughout the stretch of the river. The Supreme Court recognized High Powered Committee created measures for the same. The implementation of the measures by various stake holders somehow lost the essence of the order on the way and hence the river flows even dirtier than ever.
The CPCB – WATER QUALITY STATUS OF YAMUNA RIVER 1999 – 2005 (http://www.cpcb.nic.in/newitems/11.pdf) report clearly mentions
“In dry season, no water is allowed to flow in the river, downstream to Hathnikund barrage. The river is almost dry in some stretches between Hathnikund and Delhi. Downstream of Hathnikund the river regain water from ground water accrual and contributions of feeding canals and small tributaries etc. From Hathnikund the river sluggishly meanders and reaches Delhi at Palla after travelling a distance of about 224 km “
(CPCB – WATER QUALITY STATUS OF YAMUNA RIVER (1999 – 2005)) http://www.cpcb.nic.in/newitems/11.pdf
And what we see in our daily lives in Yamuna Bed of Delhi stretch:
The water flows in the Yamuna River downstream of Wazirabad is the treated, partially treated or untreated domestic & industrial wastewater contributed by various drains joining river Yamuna and canal water“(CPCB- WATER QUALITY STATUS OF YAMUNA RIVER (1999 – 2005)) http://www.cpcb.nic.in/newitems/11.pdf
What reaches the timelessly sacred and holy cities of Mathura and Vrindavan at downstream:
Okhla barrage the water flows in the river is the drain water of domestic & industrial origin contributed mainly by Shahdara drain. After travelling a distance of around 166 km, the river reaches at Mathura from where again a major part of water is diverted for drinking water supply through Gokul barrage. “(CPCB – WATER QUALITY STATUS OF YAMUNA RIVER (1999 – 2005)) http://www.cpcb.nic.in/newitems/11.pdf
It is of utmost importance to note that the holy towns of Mathura-Vrindavan-Gokul have their entire culture and character based on the River Yamuna since time in memorial. And what does CPCB report 1999 – 2005 have to say now:
Most of the rivers including River Yamuna are spiritually regarded as mother .People from all over the country visit various stretches of this river especially at Yamunotri, Paonta Sahib, Mathura-Vrindavan and Bateshwar to take holy dip in river water to purge away their sins. Thus, the river portrays Indian culture and traditions. Deteriorate water quality and quantity of Yamuna River hurts the sentiments of Indian masses besides having several adverse impacts on life process in the river. Yamuna river loosing its aesthetic value, glory due to severe odour that releases to the surrounding environment from the anaerobic activities occurring in the river strata and the ugly surface look contributed by blackish water, floating of garbage, plastic bags, dead bodies of animals. The religious activities and tourism are greatly affected because of these transformed characteristics of river water.
It is ironic that the river – Vedas sing of extensively, the holy puraans mention as a backdrop of many timeless fables is reduced to a trickle of sewage in the Land of Shri Krishna – Braj Vrindavan. Crores visit Braj every year which is a 3800 sq km of timeless monuments and culture. Any visit to this holy landscape is considered incomplete without a holy sip or dip in the sacred waters of Yamuna.
Why does the authorities not put up a signboard at its timeless ghats and tell all pilgrims that they are about to sip / dip from the filthiest waters of Shahdra sewage drain. Such is the intensity of spiritualism that there is a chance that they might still go ahead. Our heads should hang in shame when we fool such ardent devotees of Lord Almighty.
It is interesting to note that while ordering the cancellations of damn projects being built and losing several hundred crores by scraping them, Shri Pranab Mukherjee, on behalf of The Government of India had said “I am writing to you in clear terms that we have come to this decision keeping in mind the very special features and unique status of Sacred Ganga in our culture and in our daily lives. The holy Ganga is the very foundation and is at the very core of our civilization. Our Government is very conscious of the faith that crores of our countrymen and women have in this most holy of rivers and it is in keeping with this faith that these decisions that have been communicated to you have been taken.”
Is Yamuna not spiritual ?
- The official Uttar Pradesh Tourism figure of pilgrims to the top 9 spots of Braj – Vrindavan is 3.1 crores for Year 2010. This does not include the several other spiritually important places of the area. Any pilgrim to this timeless cultural landscape of Braj Vrindavan is considered incomplete without a sip or dip in the holy waters of Shri Yamuna ji River. The unofficial or newspaper reports figure is approximately 8 crores.
- Other than Braj-Vrindavan, crores also flock to pilgrim spots like Yamnotri, Ponta Sahib Gurudwara, Kurukshetra, Agra, Bateshwar Mahadev and Allahabad along Shri Yamuna River.
- Lakhs of Devotees come to Mathura Vrindavan for Holy dips on the occasions of Bhaia Dooj, Yamuna Jayanti and Krishna Janamastmi.
- Is Yamuna’s water quantity or quality contribution as the biggest tributary to Holy Ganga of less consequence that it can be ignored? Can there be a Ganga without Yamuna or is Ganga beyond the confluence at Allahabad lesser holy, to matter at all.
- Hundreds of Temples in the Temple Towns of Vrindavan, Gokul and Mathura have been using Yamuna Waters since time in memorial for worship activities like serving and bathing deities, prashaad and other rituals. It is noteworthy that 21 pots of Yamuna waters used to be taken to the famous temple of Shrinaathji, Nathdwara hundreds of kilometers away up to a few months ago but has now finally stopped as the water was too filthy to bathe the main deity with. Visitors still carry small quantities of Yamuna water from Braj to their homes to have a daily sip. Little do they know that it is simply the worst drain water of Shahdra drain which the Central Pollution Control Board itself states , is a mixture of Domestic and industrial wastewater.
The state and treatment met out to Shri Yamuna Ji is a National Shame.
Facts – Loud and Clear
- The spirit of the Supreme Court High Powered committee measure of maintaining 10 cumecs on its river bed throughout is not implemented at all by any of the states concerned. Wazirabad Barrage through Western Yamuna Canal. Most of Yamuna’s river bed remains dry for months together every year. No provision is made for 10 Cumecs of natural fresh water to be maintained throughout.
- Haryana does not let water beyond Hathini kund in lean season and delivers 4 cumecs to Delhi through Western Yamuna Canal near Wazirabad Barrage.
- Delhi takes away the delivered water at Wazirabad Barrage for itself and leaves not a drop for Yamuna Bed. No provision is made for 10 Cumecs of natural fresh water to be maintained throughout.
- The Delhi stretch sees only sewage and effluent being transported to Agra Canal on Yamuna Bed. No provision is made for 10 Cumecs of natural fresh water to be maintained throughout.
- Beyond Okhla Barrage what flows in Yamuna Bed is simply partially treated sewage of Shahdra Sewage Drain and a few smaller yet severely polluted drains. This reaches the downstream towns of Mathura, Vrindavan, and Agra. The cpcb January 2010 report gives an average of 51.3 BOD for the 10 months it reports with a high of 103 BOD as the Shahdra drain meets Yamuna River Bed. There is however NO Dissolved Oxygen at any given time. Again, No provision is made for 10 Cumecs of natural fresh water to be maintained throughout.
- The canal meant to divert sewage of Delhi to Agra Canal (and not use Yamuna Bed for it as it is doing now) is simply missing. As a result the near pondage of sewage waters between the Wazirabad and the Okhla Barrage for almost 9 months of the year results on one hand in creation of a delusion of the river still being in place in the city but on the other results in avoidable pollution of ground water with toxic elements.
Other Important considerations:
A. The pollution load on the river has increased greatly from the time of earlier calculation of dilution capacity. Its time a recalculation is done in view of new figures of river water quality and quantity. However, this does not mean that the earlier ad hoc calculated figures are not implemented immediately.
B. This flow is to be maintained without any flow of pollution (treated or untreated) throughout. The moment any pollution(treated or untreated) enters the river even more water is required to dilute it to bring the waters to the desired water quality level prescribed by the Central Pollution Board of India.
The National Standard set for a water body to be fit for bathing or drinking after basic treatment is a BOD of 3mg / l. The existing STP performance cannot achieve this as their designs have limitations to treat the existing loads upto BOD of 20 mg/l only. A proposal to set up STPs in Delhi with capacities to treat water to 10 mg/l was put down on account of high costs. Now, the authorities are coming up with the grand Interceptor sewage program.
However, as per – Review of the interceptor plan for the Yamuna, Analysis by River Pollution Unit, Centre for Science and Environment (Sunita Narain- Member National Ganga River Basin Authority), New Delhi Web: www.cseindia.org – “Last but not the least, the 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.”
No matter how well all Sewage treatment / Effluent treatment program and projects work, we need adequate fresh natural water for dilution. Consider the CPCB’s affidavit dated 26th April 1999 (mentioned in “Sewage Canal- How to treat the Yamuna” – Centre for science and Environment – Delhi), “Even if the sewage and industrial effluent presently under various stages of control under the Ganga Action Plan and Yamuna Action Plan are fully treated, the water quality objectives as defined under designated best use criteria of the CPCB, cannot be achieved in the absence of natural flow in the rivers”.
C. Some Critical Observations of Shri Himanshu Thakkar – South Asia Network on Dams, Rivers & People www.sandrp.in
- The first mandate of the High Powered Committee constituted in January 1998 following the Supreme Court order in WP 537/1992 was: “To assess the requirement of a minimum flow in the river Yamuna to facilitate restoration of the desired river water quality”. However, the HPC never fulfilled this mandate. There has been no assessment about the requirement of minimum flow in the river Yamuna as per that mandate. The HPC just assumed, based on certain assumptions of earlier committees that 10 cumecs (cubic meters per second) water is sufficient for Yamuna.
- The Central Water Commission itself has agreed in a subsequent meeting that this figure of 10 cumecs flow is not based on any assessment, but an ad hoc assumption. This was further confirmed from the minutes of the 6th meeting of the WQAA (Water Quality Assessment Authority) held on 23.05.2008, para 6.4, where it is stated, “It was stated by Director, NRCD, MEF that the figure of Minimum Flows of 10 cumecs to be ensured in river Yamuna (after construction of storage projects in Yamuna Basin upstream of Tajewala) does not have sound scientific/ engineering basis…. However, after detailed discussions, it was considered that looking at the present polluted condition of the river Yamuna in the stretch between Wazirabad and Okla and below, there is a need to have a minimum flows in river Yamuna of the order higher than 10 cumecs.” The WQAA decided to ask for a study for assessment of Minimum flows required in river Yamuna in the reaches mentioned above.
- “The study would take into account the earlier studies carried out in this regard and any Court directions, legal requirements and the agreements on sharing of waters of river Yamuna amongst various co basin states.” The study was to be submitted by 30th Nov, 2008, not known if it has been submitted.
- Unfortunately, the CWC has been asked to do the above mentioned study, but track record shows that CWC has shown absolutely no interest or intention or commitment in ensuring environment or even minimum flows in the rivers. For example, as recorded in the order of the Supreme Court in IA 17 in WP 537/1992 on 13.5.1999, “Mr A D Mohile, Chairman, Central Water Commission stated that minimum flow in River Yamuna is still being maintained and there is no need to release any further quantity of fresh water in the river.” This was when evidence showed that Yamuna had no freshwater flow downstream of Tajewala in at least 8-9 lean months, right upto Etawah where the Chambal river brings some fresh water to Yamuna. This shows that CWC never had any interest in allowing water flow in the rivers and there are many documents that shows that CWC believes that such water flow is a waste. Hence such a study would have little credibility if done by CWC, it would need to be done by a credible independent organisation.
- Such an assessment is urgently required to be done for the entire stretch of the Yamuna River from Yamunotri to Allahabad. Similar assessment will also be required for the perennial tributaries of Yamuna like the Pabbar, Tons, Giri, Asan, Bata, Hindon, etc. The allocation for respective states for such ecological flows in the river could then be in proportion in which the upper Yamuna water has been shared among the basin states: 56.7% Haryana, 28.7 UP, 4.6% Delhi, 5.2% Rajasthan, 4.8% HP.
- This is also in line with the “Report of Working Group to advise WQAA on the Minimum flows in the rivers”, published by CWC in June 2005. The Working Group was chaired by the Member (River Management), CWC. The report says that once Environment Flow for a River is quantified, “it will have to be taken out of the total water availability and the remaining water will have to be re-apportioned amongst the States.”
- The contention of the HPC that “with the diversion of the entire treated sewage water away from the river, the 10 cumecs of fresh water will remain fresh in the river throughout” is clearly erroneous. Even if 10 cumecs of water is released all round the year say downstream from Hathnikund barrage, the quantity of water that will reach say Wazirabad in lean season would be almost nil from that 10 cumecs released downstream from Hathnikund. The study mentioned at point 1 above would look into all these aspects.
- The assessment mentioned at point 1 above would consider the need to ensure freshwater flow through out the stretch of Yamuna and decide the quantum accordingly, not only for specific stretch of rivers (e.g. Wazirabad to Okhla to Hathnikund to Okhla or any such selective stretch).
- The repeated contention of CWC in affidavits before the SC that Haryana is already releasing 160 cusecs (4.54 cumecs) water downstream of Hathnikund (or Tajewala) and another 140 cusecs into Najafgarh drain, which confluences into the Yamuna River downstream of Wazirabad barrage is misleading. Firstly, these flows cannot be added as CWC is doing. Out of the 160 cusecs released at Hathnikund almost nothing reaches Wazirabad. At Wazirabad, Delhi is already taking away all freshwater, and no freshwater flows downstream of Wazirabad in lean season. Secondly, as clearly stated in the order of SC dated 13.05.1999, the 4 cumecs that Haryana transfers to Najafgarh drain is for irrigation purposes in South Delhi. This is NOT for ecological needs of the river. Thus the contention of the CWC is not only misleading, it is tantamount to attempt at misinforming the SC.
- Delhi had assured the SC in 1998 that by the end of 2000, Delhi will have adequate capacity to treat all its sewage and after Dec 31 2000, no untreated effluents would flow into the river from Delhi. That is yet to happen. The Delhi govt, the Delhi Jal Board and the MEF should be made answerable for this serious lapse and all concerned must be held accountable. In any case, allocating any more freshwater to Delhi would mean more sewage into the river. Allocating more water to Delhi is also not justified considering that Delhi already gets more water per capita than Paris or Amsterdam (as per Planning Commission, govt of India) and Delhi wastes 40-50% of the water it gets (Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh and DJB audit reports).
- Even now Delhi is not showing the necessary seriousness, commitment or time bound plan to ensure that illegal dumping of sewage into the river does not continue. Delhi’s sewage treatment plants even now are not working to capacity, nor are they providing the outputs of desired capacity. There is no participatory, transparent governance of the STPs or CETPs of Delhi. The construction of its planned interception sewers is yet to start. But even when that is completed, Yamuna will continue to get untreated sewage from Delhi as the interceptor sewer is going to intercept only a few of the nallahs and there is no known plan to ensure that the installed capacity of the STPs will also increase during this period or that accountable (to people) governance would be in place. Delhi has shown absolutely zero serious attempts at achieving any tertiary treatment of sewage to make it fit for release into the river, in spite of the SC order of 17.08.99. Delhi still continues to destroy local water bodies, refuses to seriously try to harvest rainwater that falls in Delhi, nor is there any attempt at demand side management or curbing non essential water using activities (e.g. water bottling plants or golf courses to name only two). Delhi, in short is providing the worst national example in water management. This behaviour of the National Capital, in complete violation of the Water Pollution Control Act of 1974, EPA 1986 and express orders of the SC is a major reason for the state of Yamuna River downstream of Wazirabad right up to Etawah. Delhi’s demand for the construction of the Renuka dam for more water, under the circumstances, is not only unjustified, it will actually lead to destruction of lakhs of trees, displacement of thousands of families and also destruction of the river. Such plans cannot be allowed, as rightly decided by Union Ministry of Environment and forests.
- The HPC’s long term suggestions of Renuka dam, Kishau Dam, and river linking proposals are thus, not necessary for Yamuna to get freshwater all round the year. In fact, these projects and other hydropower and dams planned in the Yamuna basin are more likely to destroy the river further. The MOU of Upper Yamuna River Board suggesting that even the erroneously proposed 10 cumecs flow into the river would be possible only after these big dams on the Yamuna are built is trying to mislead the Supreme Court and every one else and is only an instrument of non action and attempt to push unjustifiable projects.
- There is a huge scope in curtailing unjustified water use in the Yamuna basin. Agriculture is the biggest user of water and within agriculture, paddy (rice) is the most water intensive crop. Firstly, it is not an appropriate crop for the Yamuna basin considering the water, rainfall and groundwater situation here. For example the opening lines of the official website of Department of Agriculture, Government of Haryana (see: http://agriharyana.nic.in/) states, “Haryana is located in the northwest part of the country and the climate is arid to semi arid with average rainfall of 455 mm.” An arid/ semi arid state with annual average rainfall of 455 mm is clearly not a suitable place for water intensive crop like Paddy which require more than 1200 mm of water for a single crop.
- The govt of India has been trying to encourage diversification of crops and thus trying to persuade the farmers to give up water intensive crop like Paddy in this area. Moreover, there is also the alternative method of Rice cultivation, called System of Rice Intensification (SRI) that has the potential to save at least 50% of the water used in Paddy. Such options can lead to huge saving in water used in agriculture in the Yamuna basin. The information on SRI on the World Bank website can be found at: http://web.worldbank.org/WBSITE/EXTERNAL/COUNTRIES/SOUTHASIAEXT/0,,contentMDK:21789689~pagePK:2865106~piPK:2865128~theSitePK:223547,00.html. Useful information on SRI can also be found at: http://www.sandrp.in/sri/ and http://www.wassan.org/sri/.
- The share of area irrigated by groundwater is constantly increasing and area irrigated by canals is decreasing in Haryana. Thus, in the decade 1999-00 to 2008-09 (the latest year for which data is available on the website of Union Ministry of Agriculture, see: http://dacnet.nic.in/eands/Land_Use_Statistics-2000/N1.2.pdf), the share of groundwater irrigated area in total net irrigated area in Haryana went up from 49.63% to 55.65%. During the period, the net area irrigated by canals fell from 1.476 m ha to 1.274 m ha, while area irrigated by groundwater rose from 1.433 m ha to 1.601 m ha. In this period, the total net irrigated area in the state has seen no increase, the figure has remained stagnant between 2.89 and 3.026 m ha. The share of groundwater in gross irrigated area in Haryana is even higher than its share in net irrigated areas. In this situation of declining importance of surface irrigation vis a vis groundwater irrigation, there is even greater and urgent need for Haryana and UP to ensure continuous flow in Yamuna river as continuous flow in the river is bound help sustain and increase the groundwater levels. This is even more important considering that the groundwater situation in Haryana is precarious. As per the website of Central Ground Water Board (see: http://cgwb.gov.in/gw_profiles/st_Haryana.htm), out of 108 blocks of Haryana, 55 are over exploited, 11 are critical and 5 are semi critical. Even among the remaining 37 blocks, many are suffering the issue of adverse water quality. The need for increased recharge of ground water in Haryana cannot be over emphasised and a perennially flowing Yamuna River will certainly help that cause. The contention of CWC that this is not the case as aquifers recharge the rivers in lean season is not correct and is misleading as this is not a universal situation.
- The Prime Minister of India, in his address (see: http://pmindia.nic.in/lspeech.asp?id=907) to the First Core Group of Central Ministers and State Chief Ministers on prices of Essential Commodities on April 8, 2010 emphasised that Punjab and Haryana farmers needs to take up rice under SRI cultivation in right earnest when he said, “Punjab and Haryana farmers showed the way in adopting intensive, HYV based agriculture some forty years ago. They have to do it again through reduced water use, through better agronomic practice like the System of Rice Intensification method of rice cultivation.” There is also similar scope for curbing water demands in urban areas through rainwater harvesting, treatment, recycle, protection of local water systems, groundwater recharge and so on. In fact groundwater aquifers can be used for water storage, as has been recommended by the National Water Mission under PM’s National Action Plan on Climate Change. Similarly protection of forests and wetlands in the Yamuna catchment, creation of more local water bodies, protection of the flood plain, etc can all be used as a package to reduce the demand and provide supply side options. In spite of all the claims of the CWC, MWR, DJB, state govts on this count, there has been little serious attempt. It is thus clear that not only there is no need for most of the long term measures suggested by HPC, they are likely to destroy the river further and postpone the rejuvenation of the river which is possible immediately.
- In a recent order the Allahabad High Court (dated January 12, 2011 in PIL no 4003 of 2006 inn the matter of Ganga Pollution Vs State of UP and Others) has said that from any river, not more than 50% of available water should be diverted and rest should be allowed to remain in the river. This principle needs to be applied in case of Yamuna at every location, but particularly at the Hathnikund barrage. If this is done and if the dumping of untreated sewage and effluents into the river is stopped, along with other package of practices mentioned in point 8 above, there is a possibility of rejuvenating the Yamuna almost immediately. This can be the immediate, temporary measures, awaiting the outcome of the study mentioned in point 1 above. There will have to be credible, independent monitoring to ensure that this actually happens.
- This is also required for sustainable existence of the river, and which is also a mandate that can be read with the Environment Protection Act, 1986, as also the repeated Supreme Court pronouncements that water and rivers needs to be treated under public trust doctrine and not under eminent domain doctrine. The constitutional arrangement on water issue need not be hindrance in this situation. In any case, for inter state rivers, the constitution has provided adequate powers to the centre and the Supreme Court orders since 1996 provide other useful pointers.
MEF is already prescribing min flows before giving environment clearances for hydropower projects. The National Ganga River Basin authority has also been set up under EPA 1986, section 3 (1) and (3) (see gazette notification regarding the Authority, dated Feb 20, 2009). The Recommendations of the Committee on Legal and Institutional Implications on implementation of the Report of the Working Group on Minimum Flows in Rivers in India also says, “The implementation of maintaining minimum flows in rivers in India perhaps seems to be possible by issuing a suitable notification or by bringing an amendment under this Act (the EPA 1986), as the Act empowers the Central Government to take measures necessary to improve the environment.” Thus a notification under section 3(1 and (3) of the EPA, 1986 could be used to ensure environment flows in Yamuna. The Centre can also use the following constitutional provisions for protection of environment: Article 48-A: “The State shall endeavour to protect and improve the environment and to safeguard the forests and wildlife of the country.” 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.
D. Observations of Peace Institute,s Mr. Manoj Mishra’s report – Reviving River Yamuna
- “ At least 3 days in a month in the lean season months of November till May the river be allowed to run free (all along its length) of all the Barrages on it. It has been seen (based on analysis of mean monthly flows in the river since 1961 accessed using RTI Act) that the river was fine till there was flow in it in its lean season months, a situation that existed in the river till early nineteen seventies. Such flow while on one hand helps dilute pollution in the river, on the other facilitates a continuous sub surface flow in the river, recharging ground water and adding to the surface flow at places in the river. It has also been observed that when there is good flow in the river its impact stays over a number of days beyond the full flow period. Letting the river flow unfettered for just three days in a month should not be a problem with the managers of the existing water abstraction structures on the river. But such an action might prove extremely critical for the maintenance of adequate water regime in the river and benefit as well the people dependent downstream on it.”
- Promulgate the River Regulation Zone (RRZ) notification under the Environment Protection Act, 1986. It has been seen that for lack of legal protection available to river bed and flood plains, encroachments of all kinds and environmentally incompatible land use changes in them are rampant in Delhi, Mathura, Vrindavan and in Agra.
- Constitution of a statutorily empowered and fully enabled executive body with basin wide jurisdiction (including penal powers) over the entire river basin area in the states of UKH, HP, Haryana, UP, Delhi, Rajasthan and MP. It is notable that one of the mandates of the YRDA is to “suggest the design for a statutory framework”. (Appendix 1).This committee should have access to the PM to provide their report in the event they see that the implementation is not going according to plan. The committee should comprise of NGOs, environmentalists, ecologists and civil society groups. Moratorium on any new abstraction scheme (dams, barrage, canal etc) on the river or any of its tributaries till such agency has reviewed any such plans including conduct of comprehensive and fully inclusive RISK analysis including their (water abstraction schemes) cumulative impact if any on the river proper.
E. Observations from Mr. Jagdish Nigam- A Sewage Management Expert
Optimum utilization of existing treatment facilities of sewage treatment plants in Delhi and other polluting towns and cities is possible. The Sewage Treatment Plant operations and funds for it are handed over to State government / Local Municipalities as grants every year. Despite undertakings they do not pass on the funds rightly. Lack of Funds, inconsistent electricity, heavy power bills, pilferage of diesel for electricity generators all add up to little or no functioning of these STPs entrusted to local governing bodies. The Central Government on the lines of National Highway Authority of India (NHAI), which produced wonderful results, should create a central body which takes over the functioning of all Sewage Pumping and Treatment in all of India and directly manages and funds them. The funds can be obtained by cutting this amount from the State Government grant of GOI which was been provided for the same work. A minor amendment is to be done in the 75th amendment of the constitution, by the Parliament. This amendment will bring big achievements toward the goal of cleaning of river water in India.
Points on which Intervention/Directions of the Government of India / Hon’ble Supreme Court is required on Priority.
- Maintenance of constant adequate natural fresh flow in river Yamuna throughout, to protect & preserve its ecology. A High Powered Committee has been constituted by River Conservation Authority with the following term of references: To assess the requirement of a minimum flow in the river Yamuna to facilitate restoration of the desired river water quality. To suggest remedial measures both short term & long term for maintaining the minimum flow in the river. This committee has also due recognition of the Hon’ble Supreme Court in W.P. (C) 537/1992 and the Hon’ble Supreme court has directed the committee to get implemented its short & long term measures in this regard. The said committee after due deliberation in various meetings has already decided to maintain a minimum regular flow throughout the river for protection of its ecology. To ensure the same, the respective share of all the riparian states have already been allocated by the committee. Hence, the Government must strictly ensure the release of the respective shares from concerned riparian states with immediate effect to maintain the adequate flow in the river throughout, TODAY ! The demand above is an essential element of ‘National Water Policy 2002 ‘under its Clause 14.3 [CPCB report of November 2006 clearly mentioned the violation of this decision of HPC]
- Construction of trunk sewerage system along the Delhi stretch of the river (between wazirabad barrage & okhla barrage) to carry the treated waste water upto Okhla for an irrigation purpose is necessary. From Okhla, the treated sewerage water should be entirely diverted for irrigation through the Agra Canal. This is another decision of the High Powered Committee as a short term measure and also one of our main demands. Concerned Government agencies be directed to henceforth implement the same effectively and take necessary step. However, it is pointed out that in one of the HPC meeting the Delhi Government has shown financial constraints regarding its implementation which is not appreciable as instead much larger amounts of money have already been spent on various other infrastructure projects of lesser importance.
- Stop Shahdra Drain, Hindon Cut and other drains to flow into Yamuna and immediately redirect them for irrigation or other uses. No economically feasible technology being used by STPs in India can bring down the BOD level to the prescribed limit of 3 mg/l (cpcb standard for bathing quality in water bodies).
- Redirect city’s wastewater away from the river into STPs and use it for irrigation purposes, from all the other major cities on Yamuna (Karnal, Panipat, Sonipat, Noida, Faridabad, Mathura, Agra and Etawah).
- At least 3 days in a month in the lean season months of November till May the river be allowed to run free (all along its length) of all the Barrages on it. Such flow while on one hand helps dilute pollution in the river, on the other facilitates a continuous sub surface flow in the river, recharging ground water and adding to the surface flow at places in the river. (Every year in monsoons the various canals are shut down for days together. The states that these canals feed do manage without them, then).
- Constitution of a statutorily empowered and fully enabled monitoring body (also having penal powers) over the entire river basin for maintaining and regulating the regular adequate fresh natural water flow throughout the river stretch. This committee should have access to the PM to provide their report in the event they see that the implementation is not going according to committee or Supreme Court orders and directives. The committee should comprise of NGOs, environmentalists, ecologists and civil society groups.
- The Government should make discharging of untreated effluent into rivers a culpable offence requiring a minimum prison sentence along with heavy penalties and officials who fail to check such offences be charged with collusion in crime for abatement and connivance.
- Promulgate the River Regulation Zone (RRZ) notification under the Environment Protection Act, 1986. It has been seen that for lack of legal protection available to river bed and flood plains, encroachments of all kinds and environmentally incompatible land use changes in them are rampant in Delhi, Mathura, Vrindavan and in Agra.
- Maximizing utilization of existing treatment facilities of sewage treatment plants in Delhi and other polluting towns and cities. Since, the operations of all STPs have been handed over to Local Municipalities there is little or no interest in running them, leave alone running them efficiently. Lack of Funds, inconsistent electricity, heavy power bills, pilferage of diesel for electricity generators all add up to little or no functioning of these STPs entrusted to local governing bodies. The Central Government on the lines of National Highway Authority of India (NHAI) should create a central body which takes over the functioning of all Sewage Pumping and Treatment in all of India and directly manage and fund them.
- Improving monitoring standards and fixing liabilities. On line monitoring facilities and equipments should be installed in this age of high speed data transfers where every village is connected and yet a simple link between Sewage Treatment Plants and its monitoring bodies like pollution control boards, Environment Ministry, NGOs and other stake holders is not established yet.
When the above points are implemented in word and spirit,
River Yamuna shall come back to its People, Wildlife and Ecology.