Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Can’t clean up Yamuna before the Games, says Sheila

New Delhi Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit on Tuesday accepted in the Assembly that her government’s Yamuna Action Plan has been a failure and that the government will not be able to clean the river before the Commonwealth Games next October.

Apologising for the failure, Dikshit said the government would need another seven or eight years to clean the river. Till next year’s Games, the government will only concentrate on beautifying the riverbanks, not the river itself, according to Dikshit.

“Unfortunately, complicated technology is required for cleaning the river,” Dikshit said in the Assembly. “We have already spent several crores in the task (cleaning the Yamuna). The city’s population is increasing at a great speed and several lakh heads are added to the population every year, which also worsens sanitation condition and adds burden on the river.” Dikshit made the comments while replying to BJP MLA from Karol Bagh S P Ratawal.

In his speech, Ratawal said, “Delhi is responsible for polluting 80 per cent of the Yamuna, though only 2 per cent of the river flows through Delhi. The government has spent Rs 2,800 crore on cleaning it but there has been no result as yet.” He asked, “Will the government be able to clean the Yamuna ahead of the Commonwealth Games?”

The government had earlier spent money sending bureaucrats to Paris and London to study how those cities keep the Thames and Seine rivers, respectively, clean. But Dikshit said both rivers are very different from the Yamuna. She said the models used for cleaning these rivers cannot be replicated for Yamuna.

The government has roped in Engineers India Limited to install interceptor sewers along the Yamuna but the sewers are still only in the planning stage. The government also plans to construct 19 sewage treatment plants to ensure that the river gets relatively clean water.

Initiated by the Centre in 1993, the Yamuna Action Plan has been under fire for not cleaning even one cusec (cubic foot per second) water despite expenditures of over Rs 1,200 crore on the project. After the first clean-up plan did precious little for Yamuna, the government developed Yamuna Action Plan-II in December 2004. The second plan identified a few new cities in Uttar Pradesh that are seen as contributing to the river’s pollution. The project was scheduled for a November 2009 completion.

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