By Dr. Gyan Pathak
Pollution in Yamuna in Delhi has always been highlighted every year as is currently being done. We witness some trading of charges and then everyone becomes calm. Pollution remains as usual. The reason is the very low and narrow mindset of the ruling political parties, who do allow legally, and illegally to pollute, but deny access to clean water as basic human right. Modi government even abstained from the United Nations Human Rights Council that recognized access to clean environment a basic human right recently.
Modi government’s attitude regarding access to clean water as a human right is thus clear, which is reflected in the faulty policy decisions of the government that contribute to pollutions in all the rivers in the country not only the Yamuna that flows under his nose, the seat of power from where he rules the country. The Yamuna flows only 22 kilometres in Delhi, which is less than 2 per cent of its length of 1370 km from its origin at Yamunotri to Prayagraj, but accounts for 80 per cent of the pollution.
The Centre led by BJP cannot cover its callousness under the local BJP leaders trading charges with the AAP that rules the city government for two reasons – first, the pollution is monitored by the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB), and second, by a recent definition of the Government of Delhi, it is meant Lieutenant Government of Delhi, who works under the government at the centre. Thus putting all the blame on the city government led by AAP is ridiculous, though some of the actions of the AAP leadership are also responsible for the high level of pollution in Yamuna.
Moreover, we have been implementing the Ganga Action Plan for decades which also covers Yamuna, and this programmes is also run under the centre’s Ministry of Water Resource, now under Ministry of Jalshakti, Department of Water Resources, River Development and Ganga Rejuvenation. This highly polluted Yamuna joins the Ganga at the confluence of Prayagraj. Thus this river has also religious significance in Hinduism, which is being exploited by the BJP in the name of Hindutva, but has a record of utterly neglecting both the Yamuna and the Ganga for years
According to the Hindu mythology, Yami or Yamuna is the daughter of the Sun God, and the Ganga is the goddess originated from the toe nail of the God Vishnu, whose one of the incarnation Lord Ram has now been used as a political tool to exploit the Hindu votes, but no one cares for the cleanliness of the holy water of both the rivers. The BJP thus cannot shift the blame entirely from its head, rather chief responsibility lies on their head, for the entire stretch of Yamuna, since they are directly or indirectly ruling the states Haryana, Delhi, and Uttar Pradesh the river passes through.
The issue of pollution of Yamuna has come to the fore now because of Chhath when men and women are compelled to offer water to the Sun God while standing in the highly polluted water with foam at its surface, which is a sign of its being hazardous. Though ridiculous, we cannot laugh it off, that the Delhi government has deployed 15 boats to remove the froth with the help of ropes. On top of it, the Delhi Pollution Control Committee (DPCC) has conceived this plant and being implemented by the local government led by AAP with the help of the Irrigation Flood Control Department and Revenue Department. It is just a temporary measure only for the appeasement of bhaktas, but the problem will certainly persist till the sewage treatment plants in Delhi are upgraded and put is operation. There cannot be a short term solution for a long term issue.
Foaming is only one, and short term issue, the primary reason of which is high level of phosphate in the water released through the detergents used in dyeing industries, dhobi ghats and households. Needless to say, even regarding this temporary problem, the governments are not doing their duty and large amount of phosphate is being drained into Yamuna, though the Delhi government has taken some action, such as banning sale, storage, transportation, and marketing of soaps and detergents not conforming to the latest BIS standards.
The Common Effluent Treatment Plants (CETPs) and Sewage Treatment Plants (STPs) are still discharging almost untreated effluent into the Yamuna. All the eight major drains and other numerous smaller drains contribute to pollution in Yamuna due to their untreated water and sewage. On an average, 24 out of 35 STPs in Delhi did not meet the prescribed standard of wastewater over the last one year, while only six out of 13 CETPs in industrial areas comply with DPCC standard. Then there is a problem of capacity. Delhi generates 720 million gallons of wastewater daily (MGD), but has capacity to treat upto only 597 MGD, if they operate at 90 per cent of their installed capacity. Who is at fault for all this if not the Centre and the state? State is dependent on Centre for fund and land, while inaction of the state officials is also greatly contributing to the pollution level.
Due to hazardous pollution level in Yamuna, AAP has put some restrictions to the Chhath celebrations, but the BJP leaders have alleged that AAP has done so to hide the “pathetic state of the river.” On the other hand the AAP leadership has blamed Haryana and Uttar Pradesh for pollution. In this way both are hiding their own faults and inactions in making Yamuna clean.
India must recognize access to clean environment a basic human right and frame all laws and policies accordingly, so that we can have not only a clean Yamuna but all the rivers in the country. (IPA Service)