Two months of the Coronavirus lockdown have done what successive governments could not do in 25 years with over Rs 5,000 crore at their disposal-clean up the Yamuna river.
As industrial activity halted and other commercial activities slowed during the lockdown, the Yamuna river cleaned itself, allowing numerous Indian and migratory birds to flock to its waters. One can now see Indian and migratory birds, such as Grey Heron, Ibis and Storks feasting on fish, which too can be seen swimming in the river's clearer waters.
"I have been associated with the Yamuna Action Plan since the year 2000 and I have never seen the river this clean. The level of pollution reduces further and its water becomes clearer near Etawah; here the water from Chambal river further dilutes the pollution. I am amazed at the effect the lockdown has had on all rivers," said Dr Rajeev Chauhan, a conservation officer with the Wildlife Institute of India-Dehradun, who has been studying the Yamuna river for the past 30 years.
Almost 1,400 km in length, Yamuna flows through seven states where industrial units discharge their effluents, mostly untreated, into it. Between Haryana's Panipat and Delhi alone, over 300 units of industrial discharge is released into the Yamuna, making it the country's most polluted river. The river picks up 80 per cent of its pollutants at Delhi, Agra and Mathura.
A finding by the Delhi Pollution Control Committee shows that in Delhi, compared to the pre-lockdown days, the river is now cleaner by around 33%. Additionally, the committee found that the water improved further downstream near Mathura.
"The river has cleaned itself using its own biological capacity. Now, state governments need to ensure that industrial waste is not dumped into it again," said Diwan Singh, an environmental conservationist who has been working for the revival of water bodies in Delhi, especially the Yamuna river.
Days after the country went into lockdown, unexpected visuals of cleaner rivers, blue skies and snow-capped peaks of Himalayas seen from various points became viral on the internet, highlighting the effect of human activity on the environment.