Monday, August 05, 2013

Solving Yamuna

Water-bodies are lifeline of almost all major cities of the world. Delhi is fortunate to have one of the grandest river in the country. Unfortunately today, Yamuna is one of the dirtiest river in the world. If this problem is fixed, then Delhi will simply become the best city in the world.

There are two broad problems, as highlighted in this image by 'Save Yamuna Project' website:
  1. Much of Yamuna's water is diverted for irrigation and not much of river water reaches Delhi. 
  2. Delhi produces enormous amount of domestic sewage and industrial waste, which is dumped in to the river.  
High Powered Committee recognized by Supreme Court of India provided this solution in 1998. The committee has done a good job in finding the cause of the problem, but the solution suggested is too simplistic and absolutely impractical. It does not addresses the following issues:

  1. If tributaries of Yamuna are not provided water at Hathini Kund Barrage, then there would be loss of water for irrigation in Haryana &U.P. How will that be compensated?
  2. The report suggests to treat Delhi sewage, without any dilution! Then re-use that treated sewage for irrigation/domestic/industrial use. That is too ambitious! 
  3. Technical feasibility of diverting the sewage to Agra canal is doubtful. Even if somehow this great feat is achieved, then for sure Agra canal will become a much bigger problem than Yamuna river ever will be.
Its hard to find a really good solution to this problem, sitting in Delhi. If one travels upstream the source of Yamuna and reads all the studies on the topic, then I'm sure a very wholesome solution can be found. I wish to take that journey sometime in future. However, for now I've thought of one quick solution based on some basic observations.

The simple solution lies in installation of best technology Effluent Treatment Plants (ETP's) of sufficient capacity. This is a really expensive proposition. It would be best to fund this by charging every residential and industrial waste creating entity. However installing this sewage billing-meter infrastructure is very difficult for most parts of Delhi and almost impossible for numerous unauthorized colonies.

A simple solution is possible by replicating success of another project on Yamuna - The Yamuna Expressway. This expressway has turned out to be the best highway in India. It was a really expensive project and was developed by a private company, in lieu of real estate land allotted along the highway. So a similar model can be adapted. Few small pieces of land from Wazirabad Barrage to just after the Okhla Barrage shall be  identified in the Yamuna basin. They shall be allotted to private company for real estate development, with following conditions:

  1. The land should be really close to the river basin and the developer should be given free hand in operating the Hathini Kund Barrage. He should operate in such a way that excess water during the monsoon is stored near the barrage and is used in other seasons. Since the land is allotted right next to river basin, the developer will have to invest in system to ensure constant flow of water in Yamuna river and tributaries is maintained, all year round. This seems very feasible. 
  2. The water supply to these new colonies shall be only from Yamuna water. Hence the developer shall ensure sufficient ETP's to treat the Yamuna water. 
  3. The developer shall be given free hand in operating non-polluting transportation system in the river. This can be another major revenue source for the developer, and hence another big motivation for them to keep the river clean.
  4. These colonies can be well connected with already existing very good road network along the Yamuna river in Delhi. Hence accommodation in these colonies would surely be most sought after. In most cities around the world the property along the river are anyway most highly priced. Hence this real estate development can easily fund the cleaning of Yamuna. 
There have been already development like Akshar Dham Mandir and Commonwealth village on the Yamuna basin. They are already affecting the ecological balance of the city. Hence, it shall be ensured that this new development is last development on river basin's Delhi stretch. This would ensure elite status to this development and maintain the ecological balance. This project should be taken up in PPP model, where the role of govt. should be only limited to land identification and tender floating. The tender shall be well drafted and citizens of Delhi shall be aware about this tender to ensure transparent implementation. I'm sure lot of companies would be most willing to take up this project. Including my own company :)  


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