Pollution in Yamuna river in Delhi triggers ban on fishing

Presence of some fish means the river is not dead yet. Instead of resolving to clean the Yamuna, the government took an easy way out

Foaming is caused in Yamuna caused due to high amount of phosphates released from households and industries. | File photo

What do you do when you are unable to solve a problem? Easy, just knock out the problem.

The Delhi government seems to have taken this easy way out by putting a ban on fishing in portions of Yamuna river that flow through the national capital. Reason: Water is extremely polluted, therefore, the fish is unfit for consumption. Instead of improving the quality of river water and making it good enough for fish to survive, the state government decided to take a short cut.

White foam (caused mainly due to phosphates) floating over the river in Kalindi Kunj area last month triggered protests on social media and invited the ire of environmental activists as well as residents.

Vimlendu Jha, an environmental activist, shared pictures of the foaming river and tweeted: “Disgusting state of river Yamuna in Delhi, as disgusting as its politics and politicians residing here. Thousands of crores spent on cleaning the river, tall promises and aartis, and yet a sewage canal in the name of a river, (sic).”

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The animal husbandry department of the Delhi government issued a notification declaring the ban on fishing. “It is hereby brought to the notice of all concerned that in view of the high pollution levels in the Yamuna waters, as per the provisions made in the rules (formulated under Indian Fisheries Act, 1897), the issuing of fishing licence in two portions of public waters is suspended till further orders,” read the notification.

Fishing has since been banned in Hindon canal, Ghazipur drain and Shadipur drain and part of Yamuna from New Okhla barrage to Delhi boundary.

It is a fact that Yamuna is comparatively clean before it enters Delhi. However, constant discharge of industrial and domestic sewage, besides disposal plastic dumped into the holy river makes it look as bad as a drain. Fishing, however, continues in Yamuna while it passes through Delhi. Fishermen say species like puthi and golden fish are still found in the river. The existence of fish indicates the river still has dissolved oxygen (DO), which is essential for life to survive in water. It also means there is still hope that the dying river can be revived.

Surprisingly, the Delhi Pollution Control Committee (DPCC) does not have latest and updated data on how polluted the river is. However, a DPCC official said that high amount of phosphate in the river is the main reason behind formation of toxic foam in the river. The phosphate content goes up because of detergents used in households, dyeing industries and washermen.

The DPCC is doing its bit. In June, it banned the sale, transport, storage and marketing of soaps and detergents that do not comply with the new BIS standards. This is expected to check discharge of pollutants into Yamuna. But will it be enough to stop the holy Yamuna from dying?

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