Another sign of the holy Yamuna’s pitiable condition came yesterday morning when bathers came to the river to perform their daily ablutions. Thousands of dead fish were thickly crowding the shore at the major ghats in Mathura.
The Yamuna has once again proved that it is unable to sustain aquatic life.
The Pollution Board’s lab reports that DO (dissolved oxygen) levels in the Yamuna have sunk to around 2.2 milligrams per liter (mg O2/L) at Vishram Ghat, when the lowest limits to avoid acute mortality of aquatic life forms is 3-4. Optimal levels for most fish species are above 5 mg O2/L.
Further downstream from Mathura, levels are at 2.0, upstream 2.5. The Gokula Barrage is blocking the flow of the Yamuna downstream, creating a still lake of polluted water that is poisonous for all species.
Secondary and advanced wastewater treatment systems are generally designed to degrade organic matter to ensure adequate dissolved oxygen in waste-receiving waters.
The causes of the depleted DO levels at Mathura is attributed to the increased cold and the overflowing sewage drains.
The mass dying off of the fish seemed to take place between 8 and 9 in the morning.
Eye witnesses say that fish as big as 30 to 50 centimeters were among the dead. Most would-be bathers turned away in disgust and did not even do the minimum achman. A chemical sheen could be observed on the water’s surface and a bad smell arising.
At this time of the year, namely Karttik, many pilgrims come to do the Chunri Manorath, including large numbers of Gujaratis and emigrant Indians.
Local Yamuna environmental activist and Hindu nationalist Gopeshwar Nath Chaturvedi , whose PIL in the Allahabad High Court resulted in numerous improvements in stopping industrial effluent from entering the Yamuna in Mathura brought the matter to the attention of the municipal administration and the Yamuna Action Plan nodal officer.
It seems that the sewer about Swami Ghat was blocked and the water from the drains overflowed directly into the Yamuna. Effluent was pouring into the river until 1.30 p.m.
There have been no YAP meetings since Dec. 22 last. And the court order to get water samples tested every 14 days has remained on paper only. Industrial effluent which includes cyanide needs to be regularly monitored. Chaturvedi and others from the Tirth Purohit Mahasangh and the Mathura Chaturvedi Parishad have all called on the municipal department heads connected to the Yamuna Action Plan to strictly enforce the court orders against industrial pollution. “The High Court orders have been exposed as nothing more than paper,” said Chaturvedi.
A Sept. 18, 2009 ANI report recounted a similar situation in Agra last year, and indeed this appears to be a regular occurrence, with incidents further downstream at Etawah reported in March of this year.
In Agra, there was concern that people were eating and selling the fish in the market, especially since many were quite big, but there were no reports of any health consequences.
According to a Central Pollution Control Board report, around 70 per cent of the pollution in the Yamuna is human excrement. A major pollutant of Yamuna is Delhi, which contributes 3,296 MLD (million litres per day) of sewage falling into the river. Only half of the sewage produced in Delhi is treated effectively. Sewage discharge from Delhi and major towns like Mathura, Vrindavan and Agra has irreversibly altered its ecology.