This letter to the Prime Minister was sent on April 13, 2011. These demands were sent prior to the beginning of the fast-to-the-death. We have only received this copy now, so we are sharing. The letter posted on April 20 was sent as a minimum demand to be met in view of the lack of response to these ten demands. The hunger strike was begun because of this lack of a serious response.
The petitions made in this letter will be familiar to you. As you head the National Ganga River Basin Authority (NGRBA), you are well aware of the state of the Nations rivers.
The Ganga and Yamuna are life-giving and spirit-sustaining rivers for millions of Indians, who have watched their steady demise over the years and can do so no more.
Beyond Delhi, the Yamuna is unquestionably – as stated in reports from the CPCB (Central Pollution Control Board), CWC (Central Water Comission), SC (Supreme Court), HPC (High Powered Inter-Ministerial Committee)- a dead river. Neither does it have natural water throughout its stretch nor is it flowing in vast stretches of its river bed.
Beyond Delhi lie the historic Vrindavan and Mathura and Agra. The significance of the river to the core faith of the millions who hold a ritual bath in the holy river to be intrinsic to their faith is a well-understood fact.
Cutting across faith is a universal understanding that water is sacred and must retain its sanctity. John Keats spoke of this too:
The moving waters at their priest-like task
Of pure ablution round Earth s’ human shores.
Thousands of farmers, residents of Mathura, Vrindavan, and other areas of sacred Braj, the people of Agra, Etawa Etah and Kanpur are making an impassioned and hopeful plea for your immediate intervention in championing this task to bring the Yamuna River back to their parts of this great country.
These people, cutting beyond divisions of cast and creed have come here to Delhi after a long march across the areas where Yamuna is supposed to flow and look to your prompt action in compliance with the existing laws, the orders of the Honorable Supreme Court, Central Pollution Board recommendations and Central Water Commission’s observations.
We present below a list of demands. Please know we are willing to stay here as long as required to ensure their implementation.
1. Maintenance of constant adequate natural fresh flow in river Yamuna throughout, to protect and preserve its ecology.
A High Powered Committee has been constituted by River Conservation Authority with the following term of references:
a. To assess the requirement of a minimum flow in the river Yamuna to facilitate restoration of the desired river water quality.
b. To suggest remedial measures both short term & long term for maintaining the minimum flow in the river.
This committee has also due recognition of the Hon’ble Supreme Court in W.P. (C) 537/1992 and the Hon’ble Supreme Court has directed the committee to get implemented its short and long term measures in this regard.
The said committee after due deliberation in various meetings has already decided to maintain a minimum regular flow throughout the river for protection of its ecology. To ensure the same, the respective share of all the riparian states have already been allocated by the committee.
Hence, the Government must strictly ensure the release of the respective shares from concerned riparian states with immediate effect to maintain the adequate flow in the river throughout, today!
The demand above is an essential element of the National Water Policy 2002 under its Clause 14.3.
[CPCB report dated ___________ clearly cited in their report regarding the violation of this decision of the HPC .]
2. Construction of trunk sewerage system along the Delhi stretch of the river (between Wazirabad barrage and Okhla barrage) to carry the treated waste water up to Okhla for an irrigation purpose is necessary. From Okhla, the treated sewerage water should be entirely diverted for irrigation through the Agra Canal.
This is another decision of the High Powered Committee as a short term measure and also one of our main demands. Concerned Government agencies be directed to henceforth implement the same effectively and take necessary step. However, it is pointed out that in one of the HPC meeting the Delhi Government has shown financial constraints regarding its implementation which is not appreciable as instead much larger amounts of money have already been spent on various other infrastructure projects of lesser importance.
3. Stop Shahdra Drain, Hindon Cut and other drains to flow into Yamuna and immediately redirect them for irrigation or other uses.
No economically feasible technology being used by STPs ( sewage treatment plants) in India can bring down the BOD (biochemical oxygen demand) level to the prescribed limit of 3 mg/l (cpcb standard for bathing quality in water bodies).
4. Redirect city’s waste water away from the river into STPs and use it for irrigation purposes, from all the other major cities on Yamuna (Karnal, Panipat, Sonipat, Noida, Faridabad, Mathura, Agra and Etawah).
5. At least 3 days in a month in the lean season months of November till May the river be allowed to run free (all along its length) of all the barrages on it.
Such flow while on one hand helps dilute pollution in the river, on the other facilitates a continuous sub surface flow in the river, recharging ground water and adding to the surface flow at places in the river. (Every year in monsoons the various canals are shut down for days together. The states that these canals feed do manage without them, then).
6. Constitution of a statutorily empowered and fully enabled monitoring body (also having penal powers) over the entire river basin for maintaining and regulating the regular adequate fresh natural water flow throughout the river stretch.
This committee should have access to the Prime Minister to provide their report in the event they see that the implementation is not going according to committee or Supreme Court orders and directives. The committee should comprise of NGOs, environmentalists, ecologists and civil society groups.
7. The Government should make discharging of untreated effluent into rivers a culpable offense requiring a minimum prison sentence along with heavy penalties and officials who fail to check such offenses be charged with collusion in crime for abatement and connivance.
8. Promulgate the River Regulation Zone (RRZ) notification under the Environment Protection Act, 1986.
It has been seen that for lack of legal protection available to riverbed and flood plains, encroachments of all kinds and environmentally incompatible land use changes in them are rampant in Delhi, Mathura, Vrindavan and in Agra.
9. Maximizing utilization of existing treatment facilities of sewage treatment plants in Delhi and other polluting towns and cities.
Since the operations of all STPs have been handed over to local municipalities there has been little or no interest in running them, let alone running them efficiently. Lack of funds, inconsistent electricity, heavy power bills, pilferage of diesel for electricity generators all add up to little or no functioning of these STPs entrusted to local governing bodies. The Central Government on the lines of National Highway Authority of India (NHAI) should create a central body which takes over the functioning of all sewage pumping and treatment in all of India and directly manage and fund them.
10. Improving monitoring standards and fixing liabilities.
On line monitoring facilities and equipments should be installed in this age of high speed data transfers where every village is connected and yet a simple link between Sewage Treatment Plants and its monitoring bodies like pollution control boards, Environment Ministry, NGOs and other stake holders is not established yet.
If the above mentioned reasonable demands are not accepted by 15th of April 2011, our demonstration at Jantar Mantar will intensify in to a mass protest.
It is important to note that our demands are sincere and are in accordance with various prescribed constitutional laws.
Once again, we look to you with the hope that you will honor your high office’s obligation to act equitably in the interest of all citizens of India.
This fact: that Delhi lies along 2 per cent of the length of the river, but contributes over 70 per cent of the pollution load speaks volumes in itself about the inequity of the situation for which we expect immediate rectification.
Yamuna Bachao Andolan