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  • Writer's pictureDean Clark

Pollution in the Yamuna River

The Yamuna River is the longest tributary in India, being about 855 miles in length. Additionally, it is one of the most sacred rivers in India, yet many people do not visit it because of its status as one of the most polluted rivers in India.

The densely populated areas of Delhi, Uttar Pradesh, and many other towns and villages surround the river, where it eventually meets with the Ganges River. Not only had people dumped pollution and garbage into the water, but so did industrial buildings. Detergent, chemical waste, trash, and more can be found in the Yamuna, despite the government’s efforts in trying to stop it.

In the 1990’s, the Indian national government tried to revert some of the damage done to the Yamuna and began implementing the Yamuna Action Plan. This was a project that actually was helped by Japan, partly reducing the levels of pollution in the river through many phases.

Despite this, in 2011, the water was said to contain 1.1 billion fecal coliform bacteria per 100 milliliters of water. The standard amount that is considered bathable, not even drinkable, 500 coliform bacteria per 100 milliliters.

Locals reported that the only time that the water is even moderately clean is during a wet monsoon season, when the rainfall goes directly into the Yamuna.

Out of the 17 million people that live in Delhi, one-third are not connected to any running water, either to bathe, drink, or use the bathroom. This means that the Yamuna or the Ganges can be used for all of these, and becomes extremely dirty which adds to a vicious cycle where people get sick from polluted water.

Similar to the article on pollution in India on our website, lack of toilets or even not wanting to use toilets adds to the pollution in water that makes it unsafe to use. While there are no other options for other people, the use of public toilets would drastically reduce fecal pollution in the Yamuna and Ganges.

Earth5R, founded by Saurabh Gupta, along with many other foundations were able to collect plastic and garbage from the river, giving the plastic to struggling families around the river which they can recycle for money.

Not only does removing waste help the people of the Yamuna area, it also aids the animals of the environment. Very low levels of dissolved oxygen and the high degree of pollution killed many of the animals in the Yamuna. Around the 40 sewage treatment plants that are located in the Yamuna River, only around 30 of them are operational for aquatic life, but are suboptimal for the organisms to sustain life.

850 million gallons of sewage a day (MGD) go into the river from the various large drains coming from nearby cities. The sewage treatment plants can only treat around 640 MGD, leaving 210 MGD flowing every single day.

Despite all of this, the Yamuna is still used for religious activities. Specifically, it is a sacred place to Hindus in India, and is the site to many annual festivals for the nearby villages. However, every 12 years, the Kumbh Mela, a festival of the position of the Moon, Sun, and Jupiter, is celebrated at the meeting of the Ganges and Yamuna. Pollution of fecal release, garbage, sewage from accompanying cities, and dead sea life can be found in the area, but because of the sacred nature of the Yamuna, is still seen as a holy place and used for these religious festivities.

To sum up, the Yamuna River, connecting to the infamous Ganges River, is in need of governmental help to clean it properly. Especially because of how much it means to the Hindus for some annual festivals and even the Kumbh Mela, the government needs to stop cities like Delhi from pumping sewage into it, and get a national or international team to clean it. People drink, bathe, and use this dangerous water, with levels of pollution well above the safe level. Not only is it the cause of many people’s illnesses or potential death, but is not ethically right to be doing to India’s largest tributary. With the help of many other organizations, the government itself, and the citizens of the surrounding area, the Yamuna River could return to a more safe, inhabitable place rather than one where people struggle to live by it.

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