Monday, Aug 08, 2022
Outlook.com

Photo Feature: A Dying River Called Yamuna

The once mighty River Yamuna is an odious stream of slag as it crosses Delhi, rendered listless by the burden of modernity carelessly jettisoned into its body.

Sons of the river: Boys, known as Yamunaputras, take a dive into the river at Keshi Ghat in Vrindavan near Mathura in Uttar Pradesh, a couple of hours drive from Delhi. Photo: Vikram Sharma

Every great city in the world has a river flowing through it. Varanasi has the Ganga, London the Thames, Rome the Tiber and Paris has the Siene.

Delhi too has a river to call its own, but it has not shown it much love in the recent past. Tho­ugh Delhi’s history is intricately intertwined with the meanders of its river, most Delhiwal­l­ahs only think of it when they cross one of its many bridges, only to be rudely reminded of it by the overpowering  stench of its water. As it flows through the city, the river is reduced to little more than an open sewer, its water dark and viscous from the tonnes of untreated sewage and industrial waste pumped into it. In fact, at the Sur Ghat in Wazirabad, where the Najaf­g­arh nallah meets the Yamuna, one can distinctly see the colour of the water change from muddy brown to a Stygian black. A river activist once said that if every house in Delhi didn’t flush its toilet for a day, the river would go dry.

Satantango Fishermen cast their nets in the Yamuna at Wazirabad bridge, where the banks are littered
Satantango Fishermen cast their nets in the Yamuna at Wazirabad bridge, where the banks are littered with garbage. An angler who grew up in Delhi says only a few decades ago, he would catch the mighty mahasheer fish under the ITO bridge.
Snowy simulacra A young boy walks through noxious chemical foam at Kalindi Kunj in South Delhi. The
Snowy simulacra A young boy walks through noxious chemical foam at Kalindi Kunj in South Delhi. The foam covers the surface of the river when water is released from the Okhla Barrage.
Beyond belief A man offers prayers to the Yamuna near Loha Pul (Old Yamuna Bridge) near Red Fort. Th
Beyond belief A man offers prayers to the Yamuna near Loha Pul (Old Yamuna Bridge) near Red Fort. The faithful still find solace on the banks of the river, but leave its guardianship to fate.
Faith accomplice A man and his son watch Chhath Puja festivities from the ITO bridge. The administra
Faith accomplice A man and his son watch Chhath Puja festivities from the ITO bridge. The administration installed high fencing on all bridges to discourage commuters from throwing puja offerings into the river.
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