The Najafgarh drainage project, one of the biggest sources of pollution in the Yamuna river in the capital, has de-silted and cleaned the land between Timarpur and Bharat Nagar, the lieutenant governor’s office said on Saturday.
Lt. Governor V.K. Saxena visited the Mall Bridge and the area near Bharat Nagar on Saturday and appealed to the locals not to throw garbage into the drains. “People should own their precious heritage and keep it clean as Najafgarh drainage restoration and Sahibi River restoration work has started,” Saxena said. He found new debris on the cleaned and renovated shore.
Saxena has been monitoring the progress of the project since June when he visited the drains. He then suggested developing the drainage into an eco-tourism center with waterways for boating and water sports.
The 57 km long Najafgarh drain connects the Najafgarh Jheli (lake) with the Yamuna River and has 121 small drains that discharge into the waste water. About 3-4 million tons of silt and sewage accumulate in drainage pipes every year. Currently, about 80 million tons of solid waste has accumulated in the drains. The 12-km drain from Timarpur to Basai Darapur will be developed into a waterway in the coming months for the operation of passenger and cargo boats.
According to an official of the Governor’s Office, the cleaning and rejuvenation of drainage pipes is being carried out using partial gravity cleaning technology, and untreated sewage and sludge are being suppressed in 32 feeder ditches. “In the first phase, work has started towards the mouth of the drain between Timarpur and Bharat Nagar. While the dewatering and rehabilitation of the embankment from Wazirabad to Timarpur was completed in November, the 7.5 km stretch between Mall Road Bridge and Bharat Nagar, which was scheduled to be completed by mid-January, is in progress. It is ahead of schedule,” said the official, declining to be named.
Many agencies like Irrigation and Flood Control Department, Delhi Development Authority, Delhi Jal Public Works Department and Delhi Municipal Corporation are involved in cleaning and rejuvenating Najafgarh drains.
“The area under Phase-1 has seen visible improvements and changes in water flow, absence of silt at depth, repaired and renewed dams and trapped feeders,” the official added. “Agencies’ carelessness and indifference have turned the water body into a stinking, dead drain over decades.”
In the last two months, 50,000 tons of sludge have been cleared and 27,000 tons of surface debris accumulated outside the drains have been removed. “The MCD is moving this garbage by temporarily trespassing the boundary to reach these inaccessible dams,” the official added.
A MCD official said that large amounts of garbage were still dumped directly into the drains at hot spots like Vijay Nagar, Christian Colony, Swarna Ashram, GTB Nagar and Indra Vihar. “While the Department of Sanitation is running monitoring teams, private concessionaires responsible for waste management in the area have been tasked with carrying out IEC (information, education and communication) activities in these areas,” the source said, requesting anonymity. “Once the movement is over, we will start disbursing money for those who cannot afford to pay.”
The official said that the city administration has fixed a 10-day period for desilting the drainage channels of the catchment areas. The maintenance and environmental services departments have been given a 7-day period to inspect the exits of all public toilets along the drains to ensure that sewage is not directly discharged.
Bombay Natural History Society expert Neha Sinha, who was a member of the expert committee, said while boating and other eco-tourism activities could be allowed in the drains, such activities were not planned or needed near the ecologically sensitive area of Lake Najafgarh. Environmental Management Plan for Delhi has been developed.
“Once the drains are cleaned, such activities will definitely be facilitated, but the first priority is to arrest all the industries that are discharging the Najafgarh drains or annual sewage into the drains,” Sinha said. “Sewage also needs to go through treatment facilities. Only then can we look at other ecotourism activities.”