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Environmentalists welcome green court ruling on Yamuna

IANS  |  New Delhi 

Describing it as "well reasoned", environment experts Wednesday welcomed the National Green Tribunal judgement against waste in the Yamuna, while calling for an effective implementation as the key to a pollution-free river in Delhi.

"The ruling is most welcome because it's a well reasoned judgement. The state in which Yamuna currently is, nothing less would have worked," said environmentalist Manoj Mishra of Yamuna Jiye Abhiyaan. Mishra was the voice behind the effort that resulted in the NGT outcome.

Premised over the application submitted by Mishra to save Yamuna in 2012, the green bench Tuesday put a fine of Rs.5,000 on people spotted throwing waste in the river.

A separate fine of Rs.50,000 on dumping construction debris was also included in the judgement - 'Maili Se Nirmal Yamuna project 2017'.

The ruling also took cognizance of urbanisation on the floodplains of Yamuna and appointed a principal committee to ensure zero encroachment in those areas.

Over Rs.5,500 crore have already been spent by the Delhi government on the restoration of Yamuna that meets about 70 percent of Delhi's water needs.

Scotching concerns over the judgement's potential contradiction with people's religious sentiments, Mishra said the judgement requires creation of separate water bodies away from the river where people can dispose the worship material waste.

Modelled on four pre-existing alternatives like "Chatt Ghat" in the neighbourhoods of Mayur Vihar, ITO, Wazirabad Barrage and Okhla Barrage, Mishra said more were needed and people must be encouraged to immerse idols and other religious offerings there.

The principal committee has also been entrusted with the task of generating awareness about such alternatives during the season of religious festivals.

Infringement of religious sentiments, in practice, is a non-issue for environmental activist Debadityo Sinha of Vindhya Bachao Abhiyan.

"The percentage share from the religious waste is less or negligible in comparison to what the industries are doing to the river. They are not actually polluting the river," Sinha said.

He blamed the industrial waste and sewage as the real pollution hotspots that are disrupting the water system, denting the Yamuna's self-cleaning potential.

"Every river has its own cleaning capacity to dilute the pollutant," explained Sinha, while expressing concern for the depleting water level in the Yamuna.

He said the real issue was the diversion of water from the Yamuna and the "base flow" that gets affected due to encroachment on the river bed.

Base flow is that which comes from underground water and feeds the river during the monsoon period. It's constant level ensures enough water flow in the river.

Drawing upon the urgency to "ensure enough water in Yamuna first", Sinha said the government was ignoring the diversion of water from the river in Delhi.

At Hathni Kund in Harayana, about "80 percent water is diverted before the Yamuna enters Delhi. After entering Delhi, about 90 percent of water is directed to Wazirabad barrage".

Calling it comprehensive, Mishra lauded the judgement for its redressal provision that would keep the "issue alive" even after the judgment was passed.

"The bench tried to look into different aspects. If there is a problem with implementation of the judgement, the authorities can go back to the NGT and make a request for redressal.

Sushmita Sengupta of Centre for Science and Environment welcomed the the green order with a rider that it must be implemented well.

"Union minister Uma Bharati also said she would fine those found polluting the river. But how many cases were registered? That information is not in the public domain," she said.

"Good points are there... if it gets implemented, then only it works," Sengupta said.

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First Published: Wed, January 14 2015. 23:48 IST