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Can DJB clean the Yamuna?

New Delhi, February 15 (G’nY News Service):  “I hope they are competent, too,” the then Delhi Chief Minister Smt Sheila Dixit, had remarked, on July 13, 2007, in her file about cleaning the Yamuna. This was in response to a note from the then Chief Secretary, recommending that the Interceptor Drain project be awarded to M/s Engineers India Limited, a public sector company on nomination basis. Subsequently an agreement for laying Interceptor Sewers along three major drains (Shahdara, Supplementary and Najafgarh) in Delhi was signed on January 28, 2008 between the company and the Delhi Jal Board. The agreement mandated that the work would l be completed in all respects within 48 months (that is, 4 years), and hence, by 2012.

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Whether the said company is competent or not, only time will tell. But even today, the city awaits the completion of the said project, with the deadline now extended to December 2016.

The importance of the said project emanates from the fact that after repeatedly failing to clean the river Yamuna in Delhi despite having spent around Rs 1500 crores under the JICA -aided Yamuna Action Plan phase I and II, the interceptor sewer project has been touted as the ‘magic bullet’ for the cleaning of the river which, for years now, has been reduced to no more than a sewage drain.

Delhi Jal Board (DJB) was created in 1998 by an Act of the Delhi Legislative Assembly. Since then, it has managed the fresh water supplies as well as the sewer management of the city-state. Being in charge of the city’s water management, DJB has also been charged with the cleaning of the river. Accordingly, it is in charge of the implementation of the Yamuna Action Plan (YAP) which began in 1994.

The DJB resorted to the interceptor sewer scheme in 2007 following its failure to clean the Yamuna and repeated notices issued by the Hon’ble Supreme Court in the Maily Yamuna case. The main objective was to ensure that no untreated sewage should flow into storm water drains so that the 22 km stretch of the Yamuna between Wazirabad and Okhla Barrage, should at least may have category “C” water (that is, BOD: 3 mg/litre, DO: 4 mg/litre or more and total Coliform count of less than 5000 per 100 ml)

Wastewater Management in Urban India

Laudable objectives apart, the key problem with the above approach is twofold. One- is an unfortunate negation of the fact that while the DJB’s existing sewerage capacity remains awfully underutilized, the raw sewage continues to illegally enter the storm water drains even from areas that are fully sewered. Secondly the storm water drains leading up to the river Yamuna are not only carrying untreated sewage but also toxic industrial effluents from legal and illegal industrial areas in the city. Unless this is addressed, a clean Yamuna will continue to remain no more than a pipe dream

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