By Sachin Babu:
As the ray of light passes through the mist of an unsettled storm,
emerges a bow of a monotonous spectrum, with despair at both its ends.
Exactly two months ago, I flung the doors of the Innova open as my colossal green knapsack tumbled down to the ground at the finish line. The features of our faces echoing the images of the past eleven days, our hands and legs bruised and scarred by a multitude of emotions and boundless memories leaving the mouth fluttering with a tremulous smile from acquired wisdom and sensations only to be disturbed by the inevitability of the situation.
On the fourth of April, our batch set out to trace the Yamuna from its birth and exuberant childhood days all the way to the last stage of its life, slow and monotonous. Unaware and ignorant of the suffering entity, we left our homes excited, with our knapsacks filled with ‘essentials’.
As the city lights fade into the sky, and as the urban life is internalised,
the guiltless river is forgotten, just as oblivious of the blood flow through our veins.
Completely ignoring the ink-black waters of Delhi, we went forward to Janki Chatti, where gleaming silver and turquoise water finally caught our attention and drove every little conversation around itself. Every single person greeted us with a big warm smile, claiming to be the happiest person, and invited us over for chai.
Through our casual conversations with them, we noticed how they were possessive about the river and referred to it as ‘mata’. Other than small activities like brushing, men and women obtaining cartons of water for various purposes, people merely quenching their thirst and jubilant kids splashing water, we could not find a single source intoxicating the river. With the contagious jubilance of the kids, we soon found ourselves splashing water at each other. As the drops of water fell on my glasses, blinding me, my mind reminisced about the childhood I never had by the river, all reaching the same conclusion that we, city kids have been missing out on life.
The child comforts her crying mother,
With nothing more than just a smile and a touch.
The moon bears witness,
And the sequin stars in her eyes,
Did allow their souls to be one.
Be it Lakhamandal, Yamunotri, Kharsali or even Ganganani, the lives of the people and the river coalesced to form a larger euphoric entity. It was then time to enter back into ‘civilisation’. Paonta Sahib is one of the first major sites along the river, a religious site and an industrial town, which scars the river. Though all the industries at Paonta depend on the river and pollute it, we see that the river endures it and handles it. However, it is when it enters Yamuna Nagar, Haryana, that it is brutally stabbed. Unknown debris float alongside white foam, unhurried, almost like they’re waving us a sweet goodbye. When you witness two contrasting images, it can have a really deep impact on you. The same river, in which all of us took a dip, eight hours ago, lay lifeless and cold in front of our eyes. At this moment, to anyone, we were a bunch of students, with our eyes transfixed on the river and our bodies swaying rhythmically to the sound of our thoughts, mourning its death.
She watched as the sun set to illumine the wood,
The smoke filled the air, causing tears to flow,
from the eyes that took on a glisten from the orbs
now flicker to the dance of the fire.
As it enters Vrindavan, a holy town, the unholy waters are choked with symbols of purity. Where worshipping the goddess through rituals can be equated to killing her. Where people throw religious remains (including ashes of the human body) and witness the infamous Yamuna Aarthi. The sight was somewhat like this, a bunch of hypnotised religious people transfixed at the gyrations of the Aarthi, swaying to the deafening noises of the pooja hoping to be cleansed by the end of it. Not to be unreligious, but even a religious man cannot possibly miss the irony of religion that Vrindavan showcases. At Agra, the black river juxtaposed with the white Taj, and indeed created art, the sole reason that attracts tourist from all around the world (*please note the sarcasm).
When we finally reached Delhi, only to be greeted by the ink-black and gooey sludge, it wasn’t a very happy ending. According to a report by Central Pollution Control Board, Yamuna is polluted 13 times more than the permissible levels. About 85 % of the total pollution of the river is contributed by domestic sources. 70% of the total pollution of the river can be solely blamed on Delhi. The stretch in Delhi is dumped with wastes from 18 drains and 1,500 unplanned neighbourhoods and partially filtered wastes from incapable Sewage Treatment Plants. With all this in place, 57 million people depend on the Yamuna and 70% of New Delhi’s water supply comes from the river. Over ₹3,000 crores have been spent across 3 phases of Yamuna Action Plan since 1993 but the quality of the river has only worsened.
We can, however, take following immediate steps to control the worsening situation:
1. Idol immersion during festivals and any kind of religious waste should be avoided
2. Industries should find alternate ways to recycle their effluents and need to stop dumping in the Yamuna.
3. Strict monitoring and active actions should be taken by the government.
4. Highly polluted parts should be cordoned off from public access until it’s treated.
5. Active campaigns, major awareness sessions and increasing pressure on the governments should be taken on especially by students and NGOs.
6. There should be a minimal influence of politics and commercial sector in future actions plans.
7. Yamuna Action Plan funds should be made public.
More than all of this, only a behavioural change can actually truly make things better in the long run.
Sachin is spending his school vacations as a summer intern at Chintan