Wednesday, 25 September 2013

“We will set the Yamuna right in the next five years” says Delhi CM

“We will set the Yamuna right in the next five years” says Delhi CM
Should the voters buy her claims?
- Pallavi Singh

With the Delhi elections just around the corner, the report card of the ruling party has been prepared. With constant bashing from the opposition on issues like increasing electricity bills and inflation, the voter seems to have lost trust of the current government as reflected by the falling numbers of the party in the recent opinion polls. But the dreams of the ruling party to form another government in the city remain undeterred and to lure voters back, the old lady of the Congress party known for her conceited remarks was recently seen chanting stories of so-called development in the city. But her show of prosperity losses its gleam in front of the filth laden Yamuna.

When asked, madam CM admitted that even 15 years later she felt dissatisfied with the condition of the river, and sought for a fourth term to make the mark.  Given that the elections are just round the corner, it is important to look closer into the veracity of her statement. Would she really be able to give a cleaner Yamuna in the next five years, as she claims?

Let’s look back to see what went wrong in the past 15 years that the Sheila Dikshit led government couldn’t achieve, what she claims to achieve in the next five years.

Was there a dearth of funds? Sadly the answer is “no”. Jai Ram Ramesh himself admitted in the parliament; even after an investment of 1700 crores on the river, it is still no cleaner now than 20 years ago.

There has been support from the Government of India to supplement the efforts of the state government on Yamuna, into the name of Yamuna Action Plans. Rs. 682 crores, Rs 624 crores and Rs 1656 crores were allocated under three Yamuna Plans. Now, that is a lot of money to get the task done; in fact more than the desired amount. The Gujarat Government took up the task of cleaning the Sabarmati which was as dirty as Yamuna today. However, in just one third of this amount, Sabarmati is as clean as Thames river of London. Unfortunately, even after spending thrice the amount, Yamuna is one of the dirtiest rivers in the country. So, where did the money go? Probably, the same place where CWG’s 70,000 crores went.

If there were indeed enough funds, was it the lack of technology or infrastructure which obstructed the ruling government from giving a cleaner Yamuna to the people of Delhi?

It is imperative to look at some of the facts – Delhi already has 22 sewage treatment plants which together add up to 40 percent of the total installed sewage treatment capacity of India. With just 3 per cent population of the country living in Delhi, it is definitely not an issue of lack of infrastructure. With this kind of sewage treatment facility, why are we still using our holy river as dump? We can just hope to find answers in Mrs Dikshit’s term which she so prudently sought.

Further, the Yamuna action plans dedicated to the cause of the river were implemented in assistance with Japan International Cooperation Agency, Government of Japan. If we couldn’t get the required technical support from them in the last 15 years, is it right to be hopeful of it happening in the next 5 years?

The real problem is not the lack of infrastructure or the lack of funds. It is the lack of political will. The moment the river enters Delhi, at Hathini Kund barrage, 97 per cent of the natural fresh water is withdrawn for irrigation, industrial development and drinking water purposes. So what really flows beyond this point is mostly domestic sewer and industrial waste.

To set things right more water has to be released in the river channel. But the government has no intention of doing that. Recently, a huge crowd of padyatris gathered on the banks of Yamuna whose same demand fell on the deaf ears of the government. Not only did the government not pay any heed to the demands of the people, it also dismissed the directives of Supreme Court approved High Power committee to insure minimum adequate flow in River Yamuna all around the year.

Not only is the current government looting from the pockets of the people, it is betraying the faith of millions of Hindus who go to the Braj to take a holy dip in the river, Yamuna.

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