Parched and toxic Yamuna set to deteriorate further. Here's why

Industrial pollution is one of the major causes of pollution

A boy walks across a patch of the dry Yamuna riverbed in Delhi (File) A boy walks across a patch of the dry Yamuna riverbed in Delhi | AFP

The winter is slowly abating in Delhi. That time of the year is approaching when the already parched and toxic Yamuna will further deteriorate in the scorching sun. However, there is no remedy in sight to this problem which, unfortunately, has become synonymous with the national capital.

On the contrary, recent data has revealed that the capacity utilisation of 13 common effluent treatment plants (CETPs) in Delhi is only 31.8 per cent, resulting in crores of litres of untreated industrial effluent directly flowing into Yamuna.

CETPs are units used to treat pollution caused by industries. There are 1,655 grossly polluting industries (GPIs) on the main stem of Yamuna spanning Uttarakhand, Haryana, Delhi and Uttar Pradesh, as per the inspection done in 2021-22. Of these, 210 are in Delhi.

Industrial pollution is one of the major causes of pollution in Ganga. The 13 CETPs have a combined capacity to treat 213 Million Litres per Day (MLD) effluent generated from the polluting industries. However, as per the recent data, only 67.5 MLD is being treated. The remaining polluted effluent is going untreated into Yamuna in the national capital.

Says Vimlendu Jha, founder of Swechha, a Delhi-based organisation working on environment, “Despite 12 crore penalty levied on the CETPs in 2021, there has been marginal change in treatment capacity and treatment quality of these plants.” In addition to this, the Central Monitoring Committee that was set up by the National Green Tribunal to monitor 351 polluted river stretches in the country regularly monitors and repeatedly directs the Delhi government and local bodies to scale up the performance of CETPs.

Besides capacity utilisation, the issue of non-compliance was also flagged in the recent Standing Committee report on ‘Review of Upper Yamuna River Cleaning Projects up to Delhi and Riverbed Management in Delhi’. In total, there are 50 industrial clusters of GPIs on Yamuna main stem and 34 CETPs. “During annual inspections 2021-22, out of total 34 CETPs, 19 were found complying and 14 were non-complying with respect to standards prescribed by concerned state pollution boards,” the committee was informed.

“Industrial waste and effluents are one of the main causes of Yamuna’s toxicity and yet no urgent and desperate action has been taken,” adds Jha, while suggesting proportionate penalty and punishment for the CETPs for causing irreversible damage to the river and jeopardising the health of the citizens.

The committee was also informed that freshwater consumption and effluent discharge in Delhi witnessed considerable increase as well. “Freshwater consumption in Delhi increased from 5.04 MLD in 2020 to 15.28 MLD in 2021,” states the report. “The effluent discharge increased from 1.9 MLD to 2.4 MLD in the same period.”

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