A lot has already been said and written about the degradation of the river Yamuna, which has almost become a dump yard for the City’s waste. But I would like to make an attempt to tell people about the plight of the Yamuna and some of the gravest violations against it by the people who consider it sacred, who once saw it as pristine and whose lives and livelihoods are intimately tied to it, even now.

I often wonder how lovely and how strange a river is. A river is a river, always there, and yet the water flowing through it is never the same water and is never still. It’s always changing and a river keeps on moving. And over a period of time the river itself changes too. It widens and deepens as it rubs and scours, gnaws and kneads, eats and bores its way through the land. I have an immoderate passion for water, for the river, though so vast, so restless. It happens to be way beyond one’s comprehension and imagination. A river is enduring yet fugitive, elusive yet enticing.

Getting back to the miserable plight of the river Yamuna, the river has failed to show any improvement in its pollution level in the past one year despite gradual reduction in pollution load contributed by major drains in Delhi. A study has found that discharge of sewage water into Yamuna has declined in the past one year though it still remains one of the top reasons behind the deterioration in the river’s water quality.

During my last visit to Yamuna, It was disheartening to see that the plight of a river considered sacred and holy had deteriorated even further.  Clumps of garbage and faeces have affected the river’s water quality quite drastically. All of these have turned the water murky brown, leaving the discharge around the base of the river’s end. Moss surrounds the trees and logs in the brown sludge, causing a foul smell to rise above the substance below.

All that met the eye during my last visit to Yamuna were huge piles of garbage and filth lying scattered all around the river. Cremations and burning pyres had filled the area with a gloomy fog. Everything felt cold, right from the filthy water to the ruthless December air.

The wintry air kept on piercing me endlessly, pounding on cheeks. The filth had turned the river into a vast stagnated mass of dull, muddy water. Dark gray clouds covered the sky, only letting a few rays of feeble sun slip past the barrier. The monotonous sound of rituals being chanted at the Nigambodh Ghat blended in with the occasional whoosh of the breeze through the treetops. Everything was bleak, gray, and dreary even the atmosphere. People dressed in heavy coats with unbelievably wet eyes, walking quickly with purpose, not stopping to look at anything or anyone. The occasional chirps of birds flying over the river happened to be the only saving grace. It instilled a ray of hope into my mind, which by now had completely entered into a state of oblivion.

During a monotonous and dreary boat ride, pictures of deities could be seen floating in the river and it is here that I thought to myself “gods too, have not been spared by man’s selfishness” . And then we reached a lonely temple right in the middle of river Yamuna, the temple appeared to me as a tinge of hope in a vast ocean of gloom and hopelessness.

Possible reasons for this decline in river’s water quality are diversion of treated or untreated wastewater for irrigation and increased inefficiency of waste water collection, transportation and treatment system, the report related to the study has stated.

The government has spent millions under Yamuna Action Plan phase I and II for creation of new sewage treatment capacity in Delhi, Haryana and Uttar Pradesh yet the plight of the river remains largely unchanged. This might be due to less availability of fresh water in the river, essential to maintain self-purification capacity of the river. Less availability of fresh water in the river may be due to reduction in the rain fall in the catchment area or increased rate of water abstraction from the river. Well, these are nothing but few of the many reasons deemed responsible for the deterioration in the river Yamuna’s water quality.

It’s really a wonder that I haven’t dropped my hope just because of the fact that it seems so absurd and impossible to carry out. Yet I like to keep it close to me, because in spite of everything the river Yamuna has gone through, I still believe that change and transformation can be brought about by people because some people are really good at heart.

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