Modi government wants to make ‘dead’ Yamuna navigable

By Gaurav Sharma,

New Delhi : Can you visualise boats sailing on the almost dead Yamuna river in Delhi? The Narendra Modi government is exploring the possibility of making the river – and possibly other rivers as well – navigable to transport people and goods. Roads and Shipping Minister Nitin Gadkari had called a meeting of Delhi government officials on the issue and sought their opinion on it, a top government official said.

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The newly-elected BJP-led government is planning to create a national waterway grid by linking major rivers in the country to ferry people and goods.

“Minister Gadkari asked us whether Yamuna river can be made navigable. He has asked us to come up with suggestions to make it possible,” another Delhi government official told IANS, requesting anonymity.

Sources in the government said top officials of Delhi government’s environment department, Delhi Jal Board and Irrigation and Flood department were present at the meeting.

“We will have to study the feasibility of the project. There will be a meeting with the minister on this issue soon. We have already apprised him of the current status of the river,” said another official.

However, environmentalists find the idea as “not well placed”.

“The idea of rejuvenating Yamuna for navigation is not well placed. The Yamuna river has never had appreciable water during the lean season,” said Manoj Mishra, convener of Yamuna Jiye Abhiyaan.

“It is to be seen whether they construct a water barrage and then make Yamuna navigable. But then it will not be Yamuna but a canal,” Mishra told IANS.

The Delhi government has already sent a team to Gujarat to study the feasibility of replicating the successful model of the Sabarmati Riverfront Development Project for cleaning the Yamuna. This happened after a meeting between Lt Governor Najeeb Jung and Modi last week.

The Sabarmati Riverfront Development Project is an initiative by the Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation to develop the Sabarmati riverfront in Ahmedabad and is touted as a very successful project in riverfront rejuvenation in India.

A staggering Rs.6,500 crore has already been spent on cleaning the Yamuna, but in vain. Successive governments have framed a number of policies and plans to revive the dying river, but most of the work either remained on paper or could never be implemented.

According to the Central Pollution Control Bureau, 3,000 million litres of Delhi’s sewage is released into the Yamuna everyday making the river, which is considered sacred by Hindus, as just a “sewage canal”.

The Yamuna is the largest tributary of river Ganges in northern India. Originating from Yamunotri Glacier at a height of 6,387 metres, it travels a total length of 1,376 km through Uttarakhand, Haryana, Delhi and Uttar Pradesh. It has a drainage area of 366,223 sq km (40.2 percent of the entire Ganges Basin) and merges with the Ganga at the Triveni Sangam in Allahabad.

According to experts, most of the river channel of the Yamuna and its tributaries is not suitable for navigation. Low flow of the river further restricts this activity. At a few locations, boats are plying on a need-based basis, mainly for crossing the river. Earlier timber logs and sleepers were floated down from the upper Himalayan areas but now this practice too has been replaced by road transportation. There is, however, scope to use the Yamuna river between Agra and Allahabad for navigation, experts aver.

(Gaurav Sharma can be contacted at [email protected])