A more scenic Taj Mahal and cleaner Yamuna soon, using treated Delhi water

An upcoming sewage treatment plant in south-east Delhi could improve the quality and quantity of the Yamuna waters flowing into Mathura and Agra — including the stretch behind the Taj Mahal

January 22, 2024 07:39 am | Updated January 23, 2024 01:13 am IST - New Delhi

Birds fly over the Yamuna river as the sun rises behind the Taj Mahal, in Agra, Uttar Pradesh. File

Birds fly over the Yamuna river as the sun rises behind the Taj Mahal, in Agra, Uttar Pradesh. File | Photo Credit: PTI

Expected to be fully operational by May, the upcoming sewage treatment plant (STP) in south-east Delhi’s Okhla could improve the quality and quantity of the Yamuna waters flowing into Mathura, Vrindavan, and Agra — including the stretch behind the Taj Mahal.

A joint project of the city government’s Delhi Jal Board (DJB) and the Centre’s National Mission for Clean Ganga (NMCG), the Okhla plant is touted to be the largest STP in the country with a treatment capacity of 564 million litres per day (MLD).

According to official data, the Yamuna water leaving Delhi at present is highly polluted, with the level of fecal coliform (microbes from human and animal excreta) nearly 640 times “the desirable limit”.

To dilute these pollutants and increase the Yamuna’s flow in Uttar Pradesh, the authorities plan to release about 200 cusecs of water after treating sewage at the upcoming Okhla plant into the nearby Abul Fazal enclave drain, which feeds directly into the river.

At the existing STP in Okhla, the treated water is released into the nearby Agra canal, instead of being directly released into the Yamuna, and used for irrigation purposes in some districts of Haryana and Uttar Pradesh.

G. Asok Kumar, Director General, NMCG, said the new plan could bring a “noticeable improvement” in the level and quality of water in Mathura and Agra.

“Tourists will be able to enjoy the Taj Mahal better with a cleaner Yamuna flowing behind it,” he told The Hindu.

‘By January-end’

“Of the 564 MLD, 180 MLD [of sewage treatment at the new STP] is expected to be operational by January-end. We plan to release this treated water into the Yamuna from February. By May, the full 564 MLD capacity will be operational and we will put the entire treated water into the river. As a result, around 200 cusecs of clean water will flow into the Yamuna [in Uttar Pradesh],” Mr. Kumar explained.

According to a DJB official, the board had approved this plan last year, but there were some issues with the Uttar Pradesh government in implementing it due to the existing Central rules. However, the rules were recently tweaked to facilitate the flow of treated water from Delhi into the Yamuna, the official added.

Another DJB official said, “The treated water from [the new plant in] Okhla will be better than that of many existing STPs in Delhi. This clean water will bring more oxygen into the river and increase its self-cleaning capacity.”

The water treated at the upcoming plant will have a biochemical oxygen demand (BOD) of 10 milligram per litre. BOD indicates the amount of dissolved oxygen consumed by bacteria and other microorganisms while decomposing any organic matter present in a sample of water. The lower the BOD level, the better the quality of the water sample.

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