Yamuna is choking from a mix of illegal encroachment, farming, elections: Report

NGT's ban & DDA's 'strong' efforts to reclaim the river's floodplains have not worked the way they hoped.

The Yamuna river, despite being at the centre of multiple orders and nationwide plans, continues to flow as dark and murky waters through cities that have come up alongside it. In Delhi and many other such cities, the pungent smell emanating from the river doesn't show any progress of cleaning up of the river.

Among some of the important plans that came up last year were treatment plants — several of them — for sewage along the river, part of the Yamuna Action Plan Phase-III.

According to a Times of India report, the river faces even bigger threats from illegal encroachments and construction in areas (called O-zones) where these activities have been banned.

In parts of south Delhi, the Jaitpur Extension, for instance, entire settlements have mushroomed next to the river on one side and large scale farming on the other. Vegetables cultivated near the Yamuna were shown to have high levels of heavy metals and lead in them in a 2012 study by TERI.

Yamuna is choking from a mix of illegal encroachment, farming, elections: Report

The polluted Yamuna. AP

"The problem is not limited to Jaitpur Extension. A number of colonies are now slowly creeping into the river zone. Despite numerous court orders, very little is being done to curb this," Manoj Misra, convener of Yamuna Jiye Abhiyan, said.

The many colonies, slums, and unauthorised farms continue to crop up unabated along the river despite the National Green Tribunal having placed a ban on it. According to the TOI report, these rampant violations aren't aware of the problem.

"We have always lived here and we cause no harm to the river... farming provides us a livelihood," Kanta Devi, a resident of the Jaitpur Extension, told TOI.

Yamuna pollution. Image: File

Yamuna pollution. Image: File

A committee appointed by NGT to rejuvenate the river to monitor its health has found multiple pseudo-bridges, barrages and roads impeding the flow of Yamuna's waters. The report cites concerning activity causing the problem: dumping of debris, tapping groundwater, illegal construction and dairy farming.

The organisation tasked with the reclamation of the Yamuna's floodplains, the Delhi Development Authority, claims to have taken "strong measures" in recent years. The task force has quick reaction times for security to check on illegal construction or encroachment in the O-zone, a DDA official told TOI. There are also 200 new security personnel in the task force as of March 2019, he added.

When asked about the illegal encroachment, the official said that the reason no evictions are being carried out during this time is the election season. Code of conduct during election period could lead to a change in someone's address. The DDA makes checks on any fresh encroachment along the river periodically, the official said.

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