- Both Delhi government and Delhi Jal Board were pulled up by NGT
- 2 years since NGT ruling on Yamuna cleanup, even Phase I is not complete
- The Yamuna rejuvenation plan has failed to find any private partners
The consistent failures of relevant authorities to clean up the Yamuna were once again brought to limelight in a hearing on October 23 at the National Green Tribunal (NGT). Discussing about the plight of the Yamuna despite suggested measures by the NGT, the Green court pulled up the Government of Delhi and The Delhi Jal Board (DJB) for repeated failures in implementing Yamuna cleanup plans, resulting in the river remaining in a continued state of polluted mess. The hearing, which was presided over by NGT Chairman Justice Swatanter Kumar, took stock of the Yamuna cleaning situation and held the Delhi government and DJB responsible for the lag in the progress of cleaning up the river.
The NGT in 2015 passed a series of judgments related to the cleaning of Yamuna. Right from imposing a fine of Rs 5,000 to 50,000 on those who dispose waste in the Yamuna to upgradation of 34 sewage treatment plants (STPs) to about 2,700 million litres daily (MLD) capacity from the 512 MLD capacity (2016), the judgment was a landmark one which finally directed authorities regarding ideal steps to be taken to ensure a cleaner Yamuna. Two years since the judgment, the status of the Yamuna remains as polluted as earlier, and that has prompted the NGT to question the authorities and their roles in the river cleanup plan.
The cleanup structure for Yamuna has been divided into two phases. Phase I has been designed to focus on reduction of pollution levels in the Najafgarh and Delhi Gate drains and Phase II is planned to deal with Shahdara, Barapullah and other drains. The work for Phase I, which had a deadline of end 2017 is not yet complete as work remains stalled midway. Work for Phase II is yet to begin.
The work on the first phase was stopped due to the ongoing dispute with the Delhi government due to an enquiry placed on the DJB Chairman for financial irregularities. The DJB cannot continue to function with such allegations placed on us by the Delhi government, said Bhupesh Kumar, Member, Wastewater Treament Division, Delhi Jal Board.
While the Delhi government claims that public funds have been misused by the DJB during Chairman Keshav Chandra’s tenure, the DJB maintain that the allegations are untrue and are only delaying the work. Commenting on the issue, the NGT said that the DJB should have approached the NGT instead of pausing the work. The NGT has given the DJB 10 days to explain why work was stopped without prior notice or approval from the Green Court, as doing so is a violation of the NGT’s 2015 orders. The matter has been listed for hearing again on November 6.
Delhi Development Authority on the other hand said that money was regularly released to the DJB as per the NGT’s orders. There was no discrepancy in the release of funds to the DJB, which despite regularly receiving funds, could not fully utilise it in totality.
We have released over 37 crores to the Delhi Jal Board already, over a period of two years. If the DJB has not utilised the funds properly, the NGT must look into what is wrong with the fund utlisation pattern, said Kush Sharma, DDA Spokesperson and Legal Representative.
Both the Delhi government and the DJB are yet to submit a status report on the work done during the first phase of the project and how the second phase is planned to be executed. The ‘Maili se Nirmal Yamuna Revitalisation Project’ which was supposed to complete 28 tasks related to the Yamuna cleanup by March 2017 has not completed any of these tasks, despite repeated reminders, hearings and warnings on behalf of the NGT. The Rs 6,000 crore project has also failed to find any private parties interested and hence is struggling to gather enough funds, and is solely dependent on the Delhi government’s funding. What happens on November 6 will decide the course of the Yamuna cleanup project in Delhi and whether the NGT is able to bridge the gap between the DJB and the Delhi government.