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Student ID 20135826

M. A Convergent Journalism, First Semester AJK MCRC, Jamia Millia Islamia, New Delhi


twitter: @aaqibrk




I have lived near Yamuna for the last 10 years I have grown with it. I see it every day. The calmness of the water soothes me and sometimes the rising level scares me. There are many others who have found a piece of land on the banks of Yamuna to survive the rest of their life. They get displaced each year during the monsoon flooding of the river. But they resettle on the river, as soon as the water recedes. What makes them stick to the river, that too a heavily toxic one? People still pray to the river, come for a dip early in the morning dodging all the garbage, believing that the river washes away all their sins. Probably the way it rids Delhi of its waste. Yamuna has a multi-faceted flow in the city, and it gets treated in multiple ways too – from divine to drain.

Graphics courtesy: Hindustan Times Mint | Used with permission from the Editor, HT Mint




Yamuna is one of the longest rivers in India, and one of the dirtiest too. Flowing from the Yamunotri glacier in Uttarakhand, Yamuna covers a distance of 1,376 km, before merging with the Ganga in Allahabad, Uttar Pradesh. In Hindu mythology, Yamuna is revered as a goddess. Despite the river blessing Delhi with 70 percent of its water requirement, the city is the most polluted stretch in the entire length of the sacred river. The pollution in Yamuna has exceeded safe limits and toxic levels are looming at a dangerous point. The Indian mythology has people praying near river banks to attain spiritual peace, praying to the river as a deity, respecting it like a mother. Times change, and so do people, and so did the river. After years of continued use, which went on to take the shape of abuse, Yamuna has lost the battle in many stretches of its existence. The river is worst hit as it passes the national capital city, Delhi. The reasons are many, from divine to drain.


Kashmere Gate, Old Delhi


Kashmere Gate, Old Delhi


Kalindi Kunj Barrage, New Delhi


Kalindi Kunj Barrage, New Delhi



Kalindi Kunj Barrage, New Delhi



Kalindi Kunj Barrage, New Delhi

Kalindi Kunj Barrage, New Delhi


Yamuna Bank, Batla House, New Delhi


Kalindi Kunj Barrage, New Delhi

Kalindi Kunj Barrage, New Delhi


Kalindi Kunj Barrage, New Delhi


Kashmere Gate, Old Delhi



Delhi has progressed by leaps and bounds in the last few decades. Census 2011 shows Delhi has a population of around 1.67 crore, which is a 21 percent increase over the past decade. Real estate has boomed, bridges have come up, and modern forms of transit are here. Sadly, the planners of this modern city have failed to keep pace with the river. The riverbed has been encroached, and the flow of the river challenged. As more and more people rush to live in the capital, Yamuna is dying a slow death. Yamuna in Delhi covers a distance of 22 km from the Wazirabad dam to Okhla barrage carrying 4.6% of the river’s total water. Between these two points, 18 different drains fall into the river, 16 directly and four from the Agra and Gurgaon canal. In spite of being heavily polluted, the river banks remain comfortably populated. A large number of people depend on the river for their residential, commercial and spiritual purposes, apart from drainage, of course. “Yamuna in Delhi is an illusion,” says Manoj Misra of Yamuna Jiye Abhiyaan, a Delhi-based advocacy group working for the cleanliness of the river Yamuna. “At the Hathinikund Dam in Haryana, much of the water is diverted for irrigation and other needs. What flows from Delhi is just sewage”. Misra has been active in taking up issues pertaining to encroachments on Yamuna and dumping of debris by established governmental bodies such as Delhi Metro Rail Corporation, Delhi Development Authority and others. “All the bridges made on Yamuna in Delhi have been poorly engineered. They restrict the normal flow of the river. People are fighting for the river. But where is the river? We need to restore the flow of the river first,” Misra says.


The water flowing through Delhi, especially between Nizamuddin Bridge and Kalindi Kunj Barrage, in the name of Yamuna is highly toxic. Industrial effluents, untreated sewage, and garbage dumping add to the darkness of the water. Yamuna in Delhi has the lowest value of Dissolved Oxygen, an aquatic life sustaining factor, at 0.1 mg/lit of all the rivers in the country. Bathing quality standard is 5 mg/lit. It has one of the highest Biochemical Oxygen Demand, the amount of oxygen bacterias need to oxidise one litre of organic waste, of all the rivers in the country. Bathing standard is 3 mg/lit. It has the highest count in the country of Faecal Coliform Numbers, the number of bacterias originating from faecal matter counted in 100 ml of water at 1.7 million MPN/100 ml respectively. Bathing quality standard is 500 per 100 ml of water. As per Central Pollution Control Board, there were 42 Industrial setups in Delhi which discharge untreated waste water into the river. Then there is agricultural pollution stemming from the use of fertilizers and pesticide and cattle moving in the river. Water pollution is a major global problem. An estimated 700 million Indians have no access to a proper sanitation facilities, and according to the WHO, more than 2.3 million children below five years of age die in India annually. Of these, around 15 percent are from diarrhoea-related diseases. “To combat the dumping of excreta into the river, we have designed eco-toilets. It has two separate chambers for faecal matter and urine. Water use is minimal, used only for washing. All the collected waste turns to manure”, says Misra. The divine status of Yamuna hasn’t been of much help either. In fact, it has proved to be one of the main undoing of the river. Gopal Dutt Prakash, President, Youth Fraternity Foundation, is working to save the river from the wrath of its own stakeholders. “People assert their freedom to practice religion as the excuse to throw their offerings in the river. We operate under Section 51A of the Indian constitution which allows a citizen to value and preserve the rich heritage of our composite culture, to protect and improve the natural environment including forests, lakes, rivers and wild life, and to have compassion for living creatures,” says Prakash. “Nature will accept natural offerings but if you start dumping artificial, no-biodegradable stuffs into the river, nature is bound to get sick”, tells Misra. Amid all the chaos, the regulatory bodies commissioned to work for the safeguard of Yamuna look on as silent spectators. ‘Regulatory agencies such as Upper Yamuna River Board, Yamuna Standing Committee, Delhi Urban Arts Commission, Water Quality Assessment Authority, have only advisory role and hence are often prevailed upon by the ‘developmental’ interests’, says a report on Yamuna’s health by PEACE Institute, New Delhi. Yamuna in Delhi reeks of neglect and apathy. The river is on life-support from the monsoon floods which takes away much of the sediments and garbage dumped into the river. The river looks lively. Swelling water enters the catchment areas of the river which have been heavily encroached. The rising water levels scare people, displaces some of them too. But then that’s the price you pay for manipulating nature.




‘’Yamuna: From Divine to Drain’ is a result of continued motivation and guidance by my mentor, Mr. Sharbendu De. He has been a supportive faculty member, pointing out all the gaps and complimenting all the high points of this project, eventually helping me to shape a better product. I would also like to thank Mr. Ben Edwards who came all the way from University of Westminster, UK and trained us in the techniques of producing a photobook. I am indebted to my father for helping me out with the details, accompanying me for the shoots and providing creative inputs for the book. Special thanks to Prof. Obaid Siddiqui, Director, AJK MCRC for his continued support through the production. My gratitude to Mr. Azam Usmani and Mr. Javed Sultan for all the technical assistance.

Special thanks to Mr. Manoj Misra, Yamuna Jiye Abhiyaan, for sharing their valuable research reports with me. Mr. Sukumar Ranganathan, Managing Editor, Hindustan Times Mint, for granting me the permission to use infographics published in their newspaper. (Page 2) All the fishermen, coastguards, and general people who became a part of this journey and helped me document the river with ther anecdotes, suggestions and guidance. REFERENCES 1. Panwar, H. and Misra, M., (2009). Reviving River Yamuna: An Actionable Blue Print for a Blue River: PEACE Institute Charitable Trust. 2. Morris K, S., (2012). Rotavirus mortality in India: estimates based on a nationally representative survey of diarrhoeal deaths, Available from: <]>





AJK MCRC, Jamia Millia Islamia New Delhi © 2013

Yamuna: From Divine To Drain  

This book is a photojournalistic attempt to document the worsening situation of one of India's most important rivers - Yamuna. The river has...

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