Save Yamuna Protest March, Delhi, India


Yamuna River originates from the Champasar glacier in the Himalayas and flows through 1,376 kilometers and merges with the Ganges River in Allahabad. The most polluted part of the Yamuna starts from the Wazirabad barrage, a type of dam, to Okhla barrage, a 22-kilometer stretch in New Delhi. About half of Delhi’s sewage flows untreated into the Yamuna [1], ruining it for farmers and wildlife downriver. The 22-kilometer (14-mile) stretch of the river that flows through Delhi has a dissolved oxygen content, a measure of a river’s health and ability to support life, of zero in some areas [2, 3, 5]. Beside the normal role in agriculture the Yamuna is considered a holy river for Hindus and associate with the Lord Krishna [3, 4]. Yamuna, is also the lifeline of Delhi. Though the river caters to 70% of Delhis water needs, the city s ever-growing demand and dumping of millions of liters of sewage and untreated waste by 19 canals, is slowly killing the river [5].

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Basic Data
NameSave Yamuna Protest March, Delhi, India
SiteNew Delhi
Accuracy of LocationHIGH local level
Source of Conflict
Type of Conflict (1st level)Water Management
Type of Conflict (2nd level)Pollution related to transport (spills, dust, emissions)
Landfills, toxic waste treatment, uncontrolled dump sites
Aquaculture and fisheries
Transport infrastructure networks (roads, railways, hydroways, canals and pipelines)
Urban development conflicts
Tailings from mines
Dams and water distribution conflicts
Specific CommoditiesWater

Industrial waste
Domestic municipal waste
Project Details and Actors
Project DetailsIn Delhi, 52 percent of sewage flows into the Yamuna untreated. A study by Department of Environment, Government of Delhi in 2009 showed that the Yamuna River’s volume of dissolved oxygen in the New Delhi stretch was zero and the biochemical oxygen demand (BOD) was 23.00. In comparison, in Tajewala, at the entry point of Haryana, where the water is without pollution, the volume of dissolved oxygen was 9.40 and the biochemical oxygen demand was zero [1]
Level of Investment (in USD)239000000
Type of PopulationRural
Start Date1994
Relevant government actorsGovernment of India, New Delhi Municipal Corporation, Many Small Industrial Units, Delhi Cantonment board, Municipal Corporation of Delhi (South, West, East), Delhi Jal Board
Environmental justice organisations and other supportersYamuna Rakshak Dal (Save Yamuna Group), Indian Farmers Union, Yamuna Jiye Abhiyaan, SANDRP
The Conflict and the Mobilization
Intensity of Conflict (at highest level)HIGH (widespread, mass mobilization, violence, arrests, etc...)
When did the mobilization beginMobilization for reparations once impacts have been felt
Groups MobilizingFarmers
Local ejos
Landless peasants
Local government/political parties
Social movements
Local scientists/professionals
Religious groups
Yamuna Rakshak Dal (Save Yamuna Group)
Fisher people
Forms of MobilizationBlockades
Involvement of national and international NGOs
Lawsuits, court cases, judicial activism
Official complaint letters and petitions
Public campaigns
Environmental ImpactsVisible: Biodiversity loss (wildlife, agro-diversity), Food insecurity (crop damage), Loss of landscape/aesthetic degradation, Soil contamination, Waste overflow, Surface water pollution / Decreasing water (physico-chemical, biological) quality, Groundwater pollution or depletion, Large-scale disturbance of hydro and geological systems, Reduced ecological / hydrological connectivity
Potential: Floods (river, coastal, mudflow)
Health ImpactsVisible: Accidents
Potential: Infectious diseases, Other environmental related diseases
Socio-economic ImpactsVisible: Loss of landscape/sense of place
Potential: Loss of livelihood, Loss of traditional knowledge/practices/cultures
Project StatusUnknown
Pathways for conflict outcome / responseCompensation
Environmental improvements, rehabilitation/restoration of area
Institutional changes
New legislation
Technical solutions to improve resource supply/quality/distribution
New Environmental Impact Assessment/Study
Development of Alternatives•Yamuna should be allowed to flow unrestricted and that the Delhi’s polluted water should not flow into the Yamuna

•The government should construct intercepting canals along the river in Delhi [1]

•MOU must be urgently revisited to determine and provide first the life giving water back to the river and only then allocations of the remaining water amongst the riparian States be made.

•Defaulting States, private agencies and individuals must realise that by polluting the river they are continuously violating the law of the land, which must stop and waste water after treatment be redirected for irrigation and other non-potable, human uses.

•Centre utilising the provisions of entry 56 of list I (Union list) of the Constitution, enact a legislation that should provide for a central authority / commission / board that has the final decision making as well as appellate authority on the river Yamuna matters. Such an institution is long overdue for the river. Once in place it shall on one hand set the right precedence for the proper decision making for other multi-state rivers and on the other set at rest all confusion that currently bogs river management.

•It must be understood that no upper riparian State/s can deprive the lower riparian people of their fundamental right to life, including enjoyment of river Yamuna [4]

Do you consider this as a success?Not Sure
Why? Explain briefly.The speaker of Lok Sabha, said that the lower house of Parliament is serious about the issue and by promising corrective steps. Jairam Ramesh, then the environment minister, said in Parliament, 'The true test is does the Yamuna look cleaner today than 20 years ago?. The answer is no.' [1].

Confronted with thousands of angry protesters, the Indian government promised to clean up the filthy Yamuna River, which flows through Delhi. India's minister of water resources, Harish Rawat, has promised that the government will have a blueprint for a river cleanup program and to map out construction of sewage interception drains within two months.

The government has promised that 250 cubic feet per second of fresh river water will flow beyond Delhi and that it will construct 22 kilometers of sewage interception drains along the river [3, 5].

Sources and Materials

The Water (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1974
[click to view]


Water Quality Status of Yamuna River (1999 – 2005)
[click to view]

River of Love in an Age of Pollution: The Yamuna River of Northern India by David L. Haberman
[click to view]

Sewage Canal: How to Clean the Yamuna
[click to view]


[click to view]

[1] Massive March for Yamuna River Nears Delhi
[click to view]

[3] Government Pledges to Clean Up Yamuna River (Again)
[click to view]

[4] Bring back our river
[click to view]

[5] Yamuna: a river thats all but dead
[click to view]


Media Links

Thousands March To New Delhi To Save And Revive River Yamuna
[click to view]

Other CommentsThe level of investment ($ 239,000,000) refers to the amount spent by the government till date to clean and/or restore flow of river Yamuna.
Meta Information
ContributorSwapan Kumar Patra
Last update08/04/2014