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The Yamuna River and Braj’s water crisis

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Reduced water levels in the Yamuna in Braj← Reduced water levels in the Yamuna in Braj

Vrindavan, 2018.06.06

The Yamuna river has fallen to alarmingly low levels,  and with it, the water levels of the underwater aquifers have also dropped. Activists are campaigning for Yamuna cleaning to be undertaken urgently so that the rainwater from the rainy season can effectively be diverted to the river which is clogged with silt in many places.

River activist and chairman of the Youth Foundation Federation, Gopi Datta Aakash said that two thousand years ago the river was 15 metres deep, but now, it is little more than 1.5 meters deep in most places.

There is so much industrial waste and sewage going into the river in Delhi that the government banned farming on the riverbank, but the practice still continues. According to the research paper, ‘Yamuna, the poisoned river’ by The Energy and Resources Institute,  “These vegetables (grown along the Yamuna) become the carriers of heavy metals in our food chain,”

Frighteningly, Vrindavan is downstream from Delhi. Pollutants are building up in the water and soil and the problem of contaminated water has long been recognized as a major cause of birth defects and weakness in people of all ages. In some villages immediately downstream from industrial centres, dangerous levels of toxins are found and authorities admit that people’s health is being affected.

Despite knowledge of the adverse health effects, the government has not been able to effectively provide filtered water to even the worst affected villages. In villages where there is no private water treatment plant, people are forced to drink the contaminated water, even while knowing that it is destroying their health. (See case study of a village destroyed by poisoned water)

More than 60 million people rely on the Yamuna for their water supply, and most are aware that we are now on the brink of a water crisis.

In the absence of a government water treatment plant, people in Braj are forced to drink groundwater that they filter with home filtration systems or buy by 20L bottles from one of the private water treatment plants that have become a popular business these days. People who buy filtered water have no way of knowing if their drinking water is safe, but they are still better off than those who are forced to drink the water unfiltered.

Further downstream in Agra, the situation is even worse than in Braj. Last week, an acute crisis caused water supply to be cut off for 8 days in many parts of the city,

Officials said the cause was the dry Yamuna river and a series of technical snags. The main pipeline from the two water works burst at several points leading to wastage of water.

Half the city has gone dry as the pipeline from the Sikandra Water Works burst under pressure. The engineers have been on the repair job for the past few days.

In Vrindavan, people living in those parts of the town that are connected to the government water supply say they have recently noticed a reduction in the amount of water coming through the pipes. The water level in the tubewells on the Yamuna coast including Kalidahghat, Gaughat, Bihar Ghat, Jugalghat, Maladhari Akhara and Tatiya Stan is estimated to have dropped from 10 to 20 feet.

Maheshanand Saraswati, Ladlisharan Maharaj, Navelisharan Maharaj and a host of religious and political leaders are lending their voice to the demand for action to Save the Yamuna!


Women in Mathura drawing drinking water from a well amid summer water shortage. Picture taken June 4, 2018

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