Remember the last time you crossed the river Yamuna via any of the bridges that link parts of Delhi? Well if you don’t, then, next time you find yourself crossing over, just roll down your window and take a whiff. For those who remember it would be no surprise to know that the unpleasant odor of sewage is what our river Yamuna smells of.
Not only odor but color, composition, and percentage of dissolved oxygen change drastically in the river as it turns into a dirty drain after entering Delhi. Dwindling to zero percentage of dissolved oxygen is what has been noted in parts of the river, which means mass fish deaths every year.
This picture shows water from both sides of Wazirabad Barrage in Delhi. The dirty water infused with industrial effluents, feces, and other contaminating elements comes from Delhi, whereas the cleaner version of the same water body comes from across the state border.
Cultivation of edible crops such as vegetables and fruits has been banned on the flood plains of Yamuna. The reasons for the ban are soil contamination and high levels of toxic metals and other pollutants found in Yamuna’s water.
The river happens to pass through big modern cities like Delhi and Agra, where a large portion of their drinking and irrigation needs are still met by the river Yamuna alone. Despite residing near the river, clean potable water has become an expensive affair, be it bottled mineral water or filtration systems. This means people in villages along the river are rapidly developing health problems.
Civilizations have only been able to establish themselves on the banks of rivers. The Indus Valley Civilization, the first civilization in the Indian subcontinent, is not an alien phrase for us. It was not wars or invasions but climate change and drying up of a river that brought about the demise of the great civilization which had lasted for thousands of years.
We the people of Delhi may have become indifferent to Yamuna conservation but Uttarakhand high court declared Ganga and Yamuna as “living entities”. On the contrary, the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) categorizes the river as “almost dead”.