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The river Yamuna is one of the two biggest rivers (other being Ganges) which flow through the world’s largest river basin- The Ganga river Basin. This basin area is approximately 1,086,000 square kilometers and has a population of 500 million. This area is also the land to one of the most ancient civilization known. As part of a timeless civilization, the river Yamuna, other than being a traditional water resource, is also a cultural icon and is worshipped as a goddess in Indian Culture. A little inquiry into ancient Indian scriptures, rituals, art forms, traditional vocation, festivities or even the National Anthem shall vividly bring forward the esteem and glory that this grand River holds, even in present times.

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In Hinduism, many begin their day by chanting the glories of River Yamuna and any prayer to Lord Almighty is considered incomplete without salutations to the river. The river Yamuna is considered to be a favorite of Lord Himself so much so in thousands of temples of North India; the Deities are bathed daily with its waters. Many a temple towns are situated along its banks that have their characters based on the River and its religious tourism, the most famous being Vrindavan, Mathura, Agra and Gokul. The scandal However, unknown to the annual 80 million pilgrims and local residents of these towns alongside the river, who bathe and drink its water with faith and devotion, was that what flows now on the river bed is actually nothing more than a mixture of domestic sewage and industrial effluents (without one drop of original natural fresh water of the river).

[[{“type”:”media”,”view_mode”:”media_large”,”fid”:”716″,”attributes”:{“class”:”media-image”,”id”:”1″,”style”:”float: left; margin: 10px;”,”typeof”:”foaf:Image”,”width”:”250″}}]]An unwritten and accepted nexus between politicians, bureaucrats, industrialists and possibly media had helped suppress this fact since long. However, the truth came out. Given that millions people depend on the river for bathing and drinking water, occupation and above all their spiritual/religious emotional needs, a large protest was done in Delhi in April 2011, when thousands of farmers, saints and ordinary people from along the river’s 600 kilometer worst polluted stretch came out responding on a foot march of saints to protect River Yamuna. While the people and Non Profit organizations took it up in a big way, it met with a cold response from politicians. They responded with little actions and formation of inquiries which lead to nowhere.[[{“type”:”media”,”view_mode”:”media_preview”,”fid”:”759″,”attributes”:{“class”:”media-image”,”id”:”1″,”style”:”float: right; margin-left: 10px; margin-right: 10px;”,”typeof”:”foaf:Image”}}]]

The ecological impact has been immense-with the aquatic wildlife disappearing as fishes, turtles, alligators and others dependant on fresh river water dying in the toxic industrial pollutants and sewage. The world famous Taj Mahal situated on its banks is under threat as conservationists fear a dry Yamuna river would weaken the wood-based foundation of the Taj Mahal, which requires moisture. People’s health has been adversely affected who are regularly affected by water borne diseases. The reasons: (please refer to the attached diagrammatic map) Almost, 97% of river Yamuna’s natural fresh water is taken away after a few kilometers of its birth(total length being 1375 km). This withdrawal which is made in the name of irrigation, industrial development and drinking water is grossly mismanaged and reckless with little or no accountability. What remains after this is a sudsy, listless morass of human, industrial and agricultural wastes, literally an open sewer. On its course, whatever little reaches New Delhi through various canals is soaked away by it down to the last drop. New Delhi marks the end of river.

[[{“type”:”media”,”view_mode”:”media_large”,”fid”:”740″,”attributes”:{“class”:”media-image”,”id”:”1″,”style”:”float: left; margin: 10px;”,”typeof”:”foaf:Image”}}]]What flows beyond is simply partially treated sewage of Shahdra drain of Delhi and other smaller drains both domestic and industrial (not one drop of original fresh water from the river). http://www.cpcb.nic.in/newitems/11.pdf.The point where Shahdra drain meets River Yamuna, the Central Pollution Control Board of India in its January 2010 report gives an average of 51.3 BOD – Biological oxygen demand per liter (Max permissible for Bathing is 3) for 10 months with a high of 103 BOD. There is however NO Dissolved Oxygen at any given time (minimum should be 6 mgl).

The total coliform bacteria count at one point was 23,00,00,00,000 (max permissible is 5000). Delhi sewage contributes 71 % of the pollution to River Yamuna while it only has 2% of the total length of 1376 km of the entire stretch of Yamuna.http://www.cpcb.nic.in/newitems/11.pdf. Interestingly, most of the drinking water supplied to New Delhi(16 million people) is from canals which bring river Yamuna waters mixed with domestic sewage and industrial pollution of small towns which do little to treat their waste before dumping it into the canals. An article in the British medical journal The Lancet warned that bacteria in New Delhi drinking water carry a gene, NDM-1 (New Delhi metallobetalactamase), for an enzyme that conveys resistance to almost all known antibiotics. Millions of religious/spiritual tourist visits 3 important temple towns after Delhi on River Yamuna every year (Government figures – 11.3 millions/2010). The unofficial figures are much more. It is a shame that they are duped into bathing and drinking the filthiest of waters as none of them realize that it is only poisonous sewage.[[{“type”:”media”,”view_mode”:”media_large”,”fid”:”751″,”attributes”:{“class”:”media-image”,”id”:”1″,”style”:”float: right; margin: 10px;”,”typeof”:”foaf:Image”}}]]

Their spiritual emotions and faith are being hoodwinked. Another 60 million people depend on the river for bathing and drinking water. In a frank admission, Government of India in 2009 that rivers Ganga and Yamuna were “no cleaner” now as they were two decades ago despite spending over Rs 1,7000 million. “I admit with full responsibility that Ganga and Yamuna are no cleaner than 20 years ago,” said environment minister Jairam Ramesh while responding to a Calling Attention Motion on checking pollution in rivers and lakes in India. The mass movement of April 2011 where for the first time people from all walks of life gathered to demand adequate natural fresh water in the river evoked little response from the Indian Government who were more concerned about concealing their mismanagement of fresh waters and inabilities to treat the inflowing domestic sewage and industrial effluents to the river.