Dark brown is the river

  • 14/04/2000

W e know that an almost dead river flows through Delhi, sullied by seventeen drains that pour toxins into it. Almost everybody who lives in Delhi knows this. The Yamuna is plagued both by industrial pollution and domestic sewage. In fact the river has become a sewer. It is also common knowledge that the existing sewage treatment plants ( stp s) cannot deal with it and. As a result the Supreme Court ordered that 15 stps be constructed to treat the sewage before it reaches the Yamuna. A large number of industries and the Najafgarh drain are responsible for the bulk of the pollution load in the Yamuna.

The city has suddenly it seems come alive to the issue. For the first time we are seeing the government act and act with guts. But it is out of the fear of the court and public pressure. All this has forced the government to take the issue of governance seriously. We are delighted to see that a serious crackdown is underway. Special squads have been set up to carry out raids and inspections and seal defaulting units on the spot. Junior officials have been given the power to do so with immediate effect. And things are finally beginning to happen.

But is this the solution? Perhaps not. It is neither the immediate solution nor the long-term one. If the government is looking for a long-term solution it will have to think differently.

Firstly it will have to see that the stp s run properly. Experience shows otherwise. The stp s remain under utilised for a variety of reasons, at times the sewers even fail to reach the stp s as they have collapsed or silted up in certain areas. This is not an example of good governance.

Secondly people in Delhi have to be made to pay for good quality water and an efficient sewage disposal system. But people will only pay if they get services. For this it would be an understatement to say that a reform of the Municipal Corporation of Delhi is long overdue. And thirdly the government has to think about the small scale sector of industry. This sector is increasingly getting into more and more toxic products. It is of prime importance to get it out of the pollution trap.

The lesson one learns after taking a look at the pollution of the Yamuna is in a nutshell this. It is not technology but lack of good governance that is responsible.

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