The Delhi high court and the city's lower courts are proving to be the major obstacles in the way of cleaning the Yamuna river, the Union urban development ministry recently stated in a reply to the Supreme Court. The reply was in response to the apex court's direction asking the ministry to file an affidavit stating as to how its integrated river cleaning action plan can be implemented within the next two years. On April 10, 2001, the apex court had set a deadline for the Delhi government to clean up the river by March 31, 2003 (see 'Sewer river', Down To Earth, Vol 9, No 24, May 15, 2001).
According to the ministry, the judiciaries have granted numerous stay orders in cases related to the acquisition of land to resettle slum-dwellers who at present are living on the dry riverbed. There are nearly 75,000 slum dwellings on the riverbed and these are a major source of the river's pollution. The ministry has urged the apex court to direct its subordinate courts to quickly settle the pending cases of land acquisitions. The ministry has pointed that roads, sewers and other civic infrastructures needed to keep the river clean cannot be provided unless land acquisitions are speeded up. The ministry also emphasised that the deadline can only be met if various Delhi government agencies concerned cooperate with the ministry in an "integrated and holistic approach." According to media reports, though the urban development ministry is willing to enforce the clean-up plan, it is wary of undergoing the harrowing experience that it faced while shifting polluting industries from residential areas. While the city government failed to cooperate with the ministry, it received all the blame for a move that misfired, claim government officials. In its reply, the ministry has sought the apex court's assistance to ensure that the agencies involved carry out their share of responsibility of implementing the plan.
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