Pilloried by Parliamentarians in both Houses over the state of the Ganga and the Yamuna, Environment Minister Jayanthi Natarajan promised that the government would ensure no domestic effluents pour into the two rivers.
“We are making efforts to make that happen. We should have a commission to ensure that there is no atrocity against rivers,” she said after members, first in the Lok Sabha and then in the Rajya Sabha, expressed anguish over thousands of crores of rupees that have spent in trying to clean up the two major arteries in north India but to no avail.
With members across the political spectrum expressing similar sentiments, Lok Sabha Speaker Meira Kumar wanted a strong message to go to the people that the government would take all steps to make the river pollution-free.
Raising the issue during zero hour, Leader of the Opposition in the Lok Sabha Sushma Swaraj asked the government to take immediate and long-term measures as the life and livelihood of farmers and the people were being seriously affected.
Observing that thousands of farmers led by activists and religious leaders have reached Delhi seeking a clean Yamuna river, she said in spite of thousands of crores being spent on the Yamuna Action Plan, there had been no improvement. “The river remains thoroughly polluted and has dried up in Mathura and Vrindavan,’’ she said.
Ms. Swaraj said: “If the river had passed through Rae Bareli, these problems would have been taken care of much earlier. Soniaji [UPA Chairperson Sonia Gandhi] is so powerful.”
Members from various parties, including Congress, BJP, SP, BSP and RJD, called for a discussion and time-bound concrete action by the government.
The Speaker said: “We should send a message to agitating people that the House unanimously echoes their sentiments. All members have associated with it. This should echo outside this House too. There should be an impact. River Yamuna should be made free from pollution. This is our resolve.”
Maintaining that free flow of water from the upper riparian area was the only way to save the river, Ms. Swaraj said: “It is a very political issue involving different States through which the river is passing; 90 per cent of the water passing through the Hathnikund barrage is being used for farming.”
The Minister said 22 drains were flowing into the river from Delhi and though there were several sewage treatment plants, many sewer lines in the city were “not connected to them’’ and there was no electricity to run these plants. “We have to look for alternatives to deal with the issue,’’ she said.
Ms. Natarajan said the government was aware of the problem and taking all steps to clean the river including bio-remediation. The Supreme Court was also being informed of these measures.
Referring to the Ganga, she took solace from the government’s efforts to ensure clean water in the river during the recent Kumbh Mela in Allahabad.
In the Rajya Sabha, Ravishankar Prasad (BJP) initiated the discussion on pollution in rivers and said the Yamuna had turned into a “sewer and gutter’’ due to unchecked flow of sewage.