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Sunday, July 22, 2018

‘Situation hasn’t been this bad since 1988’: At mouth of capital, the Yamuna runs dry

As Delhi and Haryana tussle in Supreme Court over flow of water into capital, the river at middle of it all is in trouble.

Written by Mallica Joshi | New Delhi | Updated: March 31, 2018 5:29:35 am
At mouth of capital, the Yamuna runs dry Large swathes of the Yamuna on the Delhi-Haryana border are running dry. (Source: Express photo by Praveen Khanna)

Every resident at Jhangola, from the few villages that dot the Haryana-Delhi border, can point you in the direction of the Yamuna. But they’ll do it with a caveat — the river has dried up.

As it enters Delhi from Haryana, the Yamuna is reduced to a few patches and ponds on the river bed, with large swathes running completely dry.

“I was born in this village,” said 60-year-old Pritam Singh. “The last time I remember water level reducing so drastically and the river running dry was in 1988,” said the farmer, who grows vegetables on the banks.

According to the Delhi government, which has approached the Supreme Court over the alleged reduction in water being supplied to the capital by Haryana, the shortfall is around 120 cusecs (flow of water in cubic foot per second).

“We are getting an average of over 1,000 cusecs of water from Haryana. This is feeding most of our water treatment resources, except the Wazirabad pond. No water is coming through the river channel. We have requested Haryana to release around 150 cusecs through the river channel so that the Yamuna does not dry up and the minimum water level in the Wazirabad pond is maintained,” said DJB vice-chairperson Dinesh Mohaniya.

January to March are driest for most parts of northwestern India and its rivers, primarily because of low rainfall. Between March 1 and March 28, Yamuna’s upper river basin has received 79% less rainfall than normal, and the lower river basin has received 88% less. The entire northwestern region received 67% less rain than it should have in January and March.

“Haryana is not using any water it is getting from the Yamuna, and is surviving on water from Ravi-Beas. We have never reduced water supply to Delhi. In winters, we reduce water supply to our villages by 25%. The Yamuna is dry much before it reaches Delhi. This has been an unprecedentedly bad year for the Yamuna. There has been very little rainfall and melting of snow caps starts only in April. According to the Yamuna River Project allocation, at the Tajewala barrage, the flow should be 4,016 cusecs. We are getting only 1,443 cusecs since the beginning of 2018,” said Anurag Rastogi, principal secretary, Flood and Irrigation Department, Haryana. The Supreme Court will hear the matter Monday.

In villages at the Delhi-Haryana border, however, the primary concern is not the fight between the two states. “Can you imagine what will happen if the river dies? An entire ecosystem will disappear. The river has nurtured this soil for thousands of years. If it becomes a seasonal river that only flows during the monsoon, Delhiites will have nowhere to go,” said Surjan Singh, 50, a farmer who was born in Jhangola.

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