Close to 70 per cent of Delhi's population depend on the Yamuna — a river that has officially been declared 'dead'.
And, that’s only the flotsam on the surface. Studies show that the 22-kilometre stretch of the holy river that passes through the Capital spews in as much as 79 per cent of the total garbage and waste that pollutes the Yamuna.
That too after both Central and state governments have spent thousands of crores, over the past decade, trying to make its waters at least fit for bathing, if not fit for human consumption.
Under the aegis of the Tata Energy Research Institute, all important stake-holders associated with the protection of the second most holy river of India — the Ministry of Environment and Forests, Delhi Government and Central Pollution Control Board and several non-governmental orgasations — met on Monday morning to discuss how best to save the river from further harm.
Delhi Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit set the ball rolling. "Though the clean Yamuna campaign has been on for last two decades, I admit very little has been done," she said.
"There is far too much criss-crossing of authorities, with absolutely no co-ordination whatsoever.
The CM highlighted three problem areas. First, finding an alternate spot for the 75,000-odd people living in slum clusters on the Yamuna banks.
Second, new proposals like toilets built for these slum dwellers to prevent defecation on the banks, with several crores in foreign aid, are ill-planned.
"In quite a few of the 1000 toilets the MOEF built there is no water supply. Moreover, they are very far from where the slum dwellers live, so few use them," she pointed out.
Environment Secretary P.V. Jayakrishnan said: "The water of the Yamuna near the Sangam is very clean. That’s because the river Chambal flows into it near Etawah, diluting the pollutants in it. So our clean Yamuna efforts have to concentrate mainly on the 22 kilometre stretch that passes through the national capital territory."
Dr Pachauri, TERI chief, said: "We in India have to remove the mental block with regard to pricing of water. We regard it as a gift of god and think it should not come at a price. But we must understand that like every other resource, water too, is getting scarce by the day."