CEE-Delhi Workshop Dec 2, 2002

Yamuna floodplain fields

Floodplain Produce sellers on Friendship Bridge

Drains carrying sewage to the Yamuna

Floodplain encroachment

Yamuna Action Plan-funded
public crematorium

University of Michigan
Ganga (Ganges) River Partnership Project

Report from
Dec 2, 2002

In Delhi we stayed as the Ministry of Forestry and Environment's Guest house with Dr. Ram Boojh a forest ecologist and chief scientist of the Center for Environmrntal Education (CEE)-North Region (home office in Lucknow) as our host. On Dec 2 the Delhi office of CEE arranged a seminar/workshop where we discussed the current state of Indian Rivers, the Yamuna and Ganga Action Plans, and opportuinities for collaboration and potential ways to organize a /fund US-Indian project on river management. That afternoon local CEE staff took us on a tour of the Yamuna around the Delhi area. High water demand coupled with massive sewage treatmemnt issues leaves the Yamuna downstream of Delhi, once a highly productive Jewel of India and context of the famed Taj Mahal, a polluted and almost intermittent system during the dry season. Enchroachmnet on the floodplain in poorer urban areas is extensive and population pressure in the city is leading to progressive destruction of both natural and farmed bottom-lands. Nevertheless, the backwaters of Yamuna upstream of the barrage (dam) that feeds water to the city were beautiful. A riparian Wildlife Reserve provided a welcome sense of peace and seculsion near the Worlds' 8th largest city. we visited one of several new subsized crematoria constructed as a part of the Yamuna action plan to help reduce the incidence of incompletely cremated bodies in the river. Deforestation and rising prices for fuel have left many poor people without adequate means to conduct religiously proscribed burial rites. Water withdrawal and sewage treatment, however, seem to be the major challenges facing the river system in Delhi. Only about 40% of the city is sewered at present, and of that less than half in fact delivers sewage for treatment. Most is simply channeled through open naggalas (drainage canals) to the main river untreated. Despite investments in new plants, the growth rate of the city is so rapid that proportional progress has been very slow.

That evening we visited the JNU campus(Jawaharlal Nehru University) and the School of Environmental Sciences. Contacts with interested faculty were made there and at nearby Jamia Milia Islamia University. Potential collaborators in the Delhi-metropolitan area include the Ministry of Environment and Forests' CEE- Delhi office and the National River Conservation Directorate (NRCD); Prof. Tasneem, Dept of Bio Sciences Jamia Milia Islamia University; Dr. K G Saxena, School of Environmental Sciences, Jawaharlal Nehru Univ.; and Dr. Brij Gopal, School of Environmental Sciences, Jawaharlal Nehru Univ.