19 Aug 2007

Developing the Yamuna ? No Way !

Last week, a presentation was made for developing the riverfront along the Yamuna at the India Habitat Centre. The event was jointly sponsored by Delhi Tourism and TERI. Their idea was to have a public debate.

What does the plan propose ?

1. Developing reservoirs on the Hindon and Yamuna rivers upstream from Delhi to catch rain water and have a new canal divert flood waters of river Yamuna away from the main river to another reservoir downstream of Delhi. What this means that the river within the city will disappear.

2. Develop river fronts along the dried up Yamuna for tourism, recreation and other urban needs.

I am a great fan of developing river fronts etc. They create public spaces and several cities in Europe have followed this idea bringing great benefits to the locals as well as the tourists.

But one look at our monsoon fed rivers should make us realize that they cannot be developed along these lines. No amount of concrete can stop the rivers from flooding. Of course one can't see that in the Yamuna right now, but it is due for a flooding that happens every ten years or so. Just take a trip to the Ganga during this season you will see how much the river swells up by mid August. Flash floods in England have proved that even they cannot develop all their rivers mindlessly.

As it is by allowing structures like the Akshardham Temple, we have already opened a situation where developers will put forward plans to develop the entire river bed. The reason for this rush is obvious. West Delhi (Rohini and Dwarka) and South Delhi (Vasant Kunj) face severe water shortages. The river bed provides an undeveloped "virgin" land with infrastructure projects booming all around. The builders do not have to worry about roads, metro, water or providing electricity. But what of the underground water which will disappear - used up in this massive construction activity? Where will Delhi get its water from then?

So when they talk about cleaning the banks of the river (of slums created by us during the 1982 Asiad) and beautifying the city, making it a better place to live etc. do not fall for that shit. The reason why the river Mithi floods Mumbai every year is that the river bed has been reduced to a stream due to urban construction. The remaining spaces are taken by slum dwellers who suffer when the rivers swells up during the monsoon.

Lets think of ideas of reviving the river than shutting it off and building concrete giants on the river bed.

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