Parliamentary panel favours penal provisions for dumping waste into rivers
New Delhi: A parliamentary committee has recommended to the department of water resources to prepare norms which should include penal provisions against waste dumping into the rivers, including Yamuna.
In view of the potential health hazards due to the use of fertilisers and pesticides in the floodplains of Yamuna, the standing committee on water resources has also urged the department under the Ministry of Jal Shakti to work with the ministry of agriculture and farmers’ welfare to explore ways to promote organic farming along the course of river by providing incentives to the farmers so that usage of chemical fertilisers and pesticides may be minimised.
The Standing Committee on Water Resources presented its 27th report ‘Review of Upper Yamuna River Cleaning Projects up to Delhi and River Bed Management in Delhi’ in the Lok Sabha on Tuesday. It flagged that no study has been conducted to assess the impact of construction and demolition debris, as well as bio-medical waste dumping on the health of river Yamuna.
It further stated that according to Delhi Development Authority’s (DDA’s) reply, a number of steps have been taken, such as deployment of security guards, installation of surveillance and issuing challans to prevent dumping.
The DDA noted that the number of challans issued has increased from one in the year 2018 to 610 in the year 2021, indicating the rise in instances of dumping of debris into Yamuna.
The committee stated that dumping of waste, construction material and bio-medical waste have the potential to obstruct the natural flow of water during intense precipitation and water may accumulate where it is not required and thus, may result in flash flood.
Further, due to the presence of waste in water, the ecology of river suffers immensely and deposition of waste material may also disfigure the beautiful landscapes around the river sites, it said.
“The committee, therefore, recommends to the department to prepare guidelines/ rules in this regard. Violation of these rules should attract penal provisions in order to avoid waste dumping in the rivers including Yamuna,” the report said.
While highlighting the critical situation of river Yamuna due to deteriorating water quality parameters, the committee called for urgent, lucid and coordinated response from all the stakeholders in order to abate pollution and conserve it for posterity.
Under the National Mission for Clean Ganga (NMCG), the Yamuna river has been categorised in three parts – the part from Yamunotri to Hathni Kund Barrage may be considered as unpolluted stretch; the part from Hathni Kund Barriage to Palla is moderately polluted; however, the part from Palla to Okhla, basically the Delhi stretch, is severely polluted.
The committee noted that river Yamuna enters Delhi at Palla from Haryana and exits Delhi to enter Uttar Pradesh at Asgarpur, which approximately is a 40-km stretch.
Water quality assessment of river Yamuna is carried out by CPCB at 33 locations, under NWMP in association with SPCBs of Uttarakhand, Himachal Pradesh, Haryana, Delhi and Uttar Pradesh.
The water quality data of these 33 locations, monitored from January, 2021 to May, 2023 was analysed for four parameters – dissolved oxygen (DO), pH, biochemical oxygen demand (BOD) and fecal coliform (FC).
The analysis revealed that all the four monitored locations each in Uttarakhand and Himachal Pradesh are complying while all the six monitored locations are not complying with the criteria in Haryana.
All the seven monitored locations in Delhi did not comply with the criteria in 2021. Six locations were non-complying except at Palla (entry point of Delhi) which is observed complying during 2022 and 2023.
Out of 12 monitored locations in Uttar Pradesh, 11 are observed non complying during 2021-2023. One location at Prayagraj was complying with the criteria. Overall, out of 33 locations on river Yamuna, 10 locations were complying during 2021-2023. Remaining 23 locations were not complying.
“The committee finds from the submission of the department that the water of river Yamuna in Delhi is not fit for bathing,” the report stated.
The committee noted that the assessment regarding the extent and magnitude of pollution caused in river Yamuna due to application or use of fertiliser in agriculture during the last five years has not been carried out by CPCB.
“In view of the potential health hazards due to use of fertilisers and pesticides in floodplains of river Yamuna, the committee urges the department to work with the Ministry of Agriculture and Farmers’ Welfare to explore the ways to promote organic farming along the course of river Yamuna by providing incentives to the farmers so that usage of chemical fertilisers and pesticides may be minimised,” it recommended.
The committee also flagged that there is no study available to show to the extent to which the existing cremation process is responsible for pollution in Yamuna river.
It noted that only Nigam Bodh crematorium is situated on the bank of Yamuna in the area of North Delhi Municipal Corporation, in which six CNG furnaces, six Moksha Dah furnaces and about 90 open platform facilities are available for the rites.
In order to reduce pollution in Yamuna, the committee urged the department to explore ways including providing financial assistance to the states to establish electric and CNG furnaces.
Besides, the department, with the concerned Yamuna basin states, need to find ways to discourage rituals on the pyres built on the banks of Yamuna. If possible, it recommended shifting of the cremation sites away from the immediate periphery of the banks of Yamuna in order to prevent contamination of river water, the panel said.