Yamuna close to ecological collapse: Vandna Shiva

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New Delhi, Nov 7(UNI) Labelling the Yamuna river as the lifeline of Delhi, noted environmentalist Vandna Shiva today rued that the river was now teetering on the brink of ecological collapse due to overuse, pollution by sewage, industrial chemicals as well as municipal waste and encroachments.

Talking to UNI here on the conclusion of a 14-day awareness campaign 'Yamuna Bachao-Jeewan Bachao Yatra' that was launched to protect the river from pollution, construction, corruption and other activities, Dr Shiva said, ''A river is an aquatic ecosystem with its own dynamics and critical requirement for its sustenance. While it provides important ecological services like water for human consumption and allied uses, it needs, in turn, respect for its water flow in toto.'' Questioning the model of development that Delhi is embracing with complete disregard for its ecosystem, she said the motive of the yatra was to raise awareness of the destruction on the Yamuna floodplains and the pollution of the river water in the city.

The Yatra had been flagged off by former Prime Minister V P Singh from Rajghat on October 25.

The Yatra, during its 1,150 km journey, reached out to more than 25 lakh citizens of Delhi and collected over 2.5 lakh signatures.

The document of signatures will be handed over to the government and will urge it to honour the sentiments of the public who have given their reference against, the destruction of the Yamuna.

Citizens Front For Water Democracy co-convenor S A Naqvi said, ''The Ministry of Environment and Forests which should be protecting the rivers and the wetlands is planning to sell floodplains to builders and property developers. The Ganga action plan and Yamuna action failed because of corruption and inappropriate technology.

The people's participation is vital for stopping polluters from polluting.'' He added, ''The government cannot make its failure to clean out rivers an excuse for selling the land that belongs to the river.

Two wrongs do not make a right. The government cannot legalise the illegal encroachments of Akshardham and Commonwealth Games by its policy of riverfront development.'' ''Firstly, the river flood plains are not the government's property and so it has no right to sell the land that belongs to the public as common property. Secondly, building in the flood plains will aggravate floods and water scarcity. Since all urban land outside the flood plains is already built up all riverfront development will be an encroachment in the river,'' Mr Naqvi emphasised.

Magsaysay award winner Rajinder Singh, who was also present on the occasion, said,'' At a time when the government should be planning to reduce climate impact and climate vulnerability, it is doing everything to accelerate climate catastrophe. We cannot follow China's example when it comes to rivers. To protect our rivers we must make them our teachers and we must defend our culture of conservation which has revered the rivers. The protection of our river rests on Democracy and citizen participation.'' UNI

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