New Delhi, 2017.03.21 (TNN): The Uttarakhand high court’s order on Monday declaring the Ganga and the Yamuna as legal or living persons has given hope to scientists and activists who had almost given up on government projects to revive the “dead” Yamuna. Although how it will be interpreted into policy remains to be seen, they hope that the order will be treated as more than mere tokenism.
TOI has reported repeatedly that the dissolved oxygen (DO) levels in the Yamuna, particularly at Nizamuddin and Okhla, are nearly zero. DO is the level of oxygen in water, a must to sustain life.
As a large stretch of the Yamuna is technically dead due to release of untreated sewage into it, many activists wonder if the order would ensure that every drain that enters the river carries treated water or if a minimum “ecological flow” will be maintained to sustain life in the river.
It’s a “golden letter day for rivers” and “is a great step forward”, said Manoj Mishra of Yamuna Jiye Abhiyan. “It has come through judicial action, now it should translate into a legislative action. All projects, schemes, work affecting the rivers should be reviewed in the light of this order.”
Professor A K Gosain of IIT Delhi, who prepared the drainage master plan for Delhi, said, “To ensure that a river is treated like a living person, it should be considered in its entirety. For example, a river would not just mean the river, but also its floodplains, all tributaries, including natural and artificial drains, opening into it.
“No pollution should enter these drains because these are organs of the body. If one is damaged, it can become cancerous for the river.”
The authorities should ensure that only treated water is let into the river, he added. C R Babu, professor emeritus at Delhi University, added that no river could live without an ecological flow. “There is not a drop of water downstream of Hathnikund. It’s dead. Pollution is secondary but you have to ensure the lean season flow at least through the year in the entire stretch. This can be done by storing the excess water during monsoons.”
Mishra also questioned how the four dams at Lakhwar and Vyasi in Uttarakhand and Renuka and Kishau in Himachal Pradesh would be treated, considering that they would interrupt the flow. The only other country which recently gave a living person’s rights to a river is New Zealand.
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