Doomed! Carry on flushing

two years ago the Supreme Court fixed 31 March 2003 as the deadline for cleaning the Yamuna. It's April 2003 now and unbelievably, the river that passes through India's capital city is actually dirtier. One frightening indication: this river has 118 million per 100 ml of total coliform bacteria. According to the Central Pollution Control Board the water should not have more than 5000 per 100 ml, if it is to be used for drinking after treatment and disinfection. This shows how dangerous the water is; other bacteria and viruses which cause typhoid, cholera or hepatitis follow the feco-oral route and are likely to be also present

 
Published: Sunday 07 June 2015

-- two years ago the Supreme Court fixed 31 March 2003 as the deadline for cleaning the Yamuna. It's April 2003 now and unbelievably, the river that passes through India's capital city is actually dirtier. One frightening indication: this river has 118 million per 100 ml of total coliform bacteria. According to the Central Pollution Control Board the water should not have more than 5000 per 100 ml, if it is to be used for drinking after treatment and disinfection. This shows how dangerous the water is; other bacteria and viruses which cause typhoid, cholera or hepatitis follow the feco-oral route and are likely to be also present.

80 per cent of pollution is actually wastewater from the bathrooms of Delhi's rich and middle classes. Industries also brazenly pollute; water treatment plants in the capital closed down about four times this year already, unable to handle pollution load. Both the Delhi and Haryana governments are unable to even point to the culprits, leave alone penalising anyone. Yet the capital gets its drinking water from the same river.

Let's try and be fair to the government. In 1985 it formulated the Ganga Action Plan (gap) to at least do something. It also rightly identified sewage as the major polluter. Unfortunately, positive steps ended there. Without checking to see if it was producing results, gap was extended and replicated as the National River Conservation Plan (nrcp) and the Yamuna Action Plan (yap) grew out. Now yap-ii has taken birth. In the first phase a capacity to clean 724 mld of sewage has reportedly been created. We say reportedly because thereafter all the proof of the pudding is in the eating and there is little to suggest that the sewage treatment has lead to any reduction in pollution in the river. In fact, the pollution has increased. The bottom line is that the ministry of environment and forests, with money from foreign donors, has already spent about Rs 700 crore and still not cleaned rich people's waste.

The deadline is over, but there is not even a iota of perturbance in official circles. Deadlines exist to be endlessly extended; industries will continue to extract huge volumes, then deliberately pollute the water. The rich will carry on flushing. And people, especially the poor, will keep falling sick or die.

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