Remove Encroachments From Yamuna Floodplains, Orders Delhi High Court

A bench headed by Acting Chief Justice Manmohan passed directions for "rejuvenation" of the river by removal of construction debris

Remove Encroachments From Yamuna Floodplains, Orders Delhi High Court
New Delhi:

The Delhi High Court has directed the removal of encroachments from the Yamuna floodplains and sought a report from the Delhi Development Authority on the development of biodiversity parks/wetland on the site, saying green development of the banks is necessary.

A bench headed by Acting Chief Justice Manmohan passed directions for "rejuvenation" of the river by removal of construction debris and asked the Delhi Development Authority (DDA) to take up the issue of its "controlled and scientific dredging" on a war footing.

The court, which directed the authority to explore green horticultural development of river fronts and recreational zones and appoint nodal officers for sustained upkeep of the area, also said dedicated "ghats" should be created for devotees.

"It is necessary to do green development of the banks of the Yamuna as wetlands and public spaces, parks for open green spaces, access to civic amenities, zones of entertainment or playgrounds for the children. This will lead to buy-in by the common citizen, a sense of ownership and consequent pressures on the authorities to ensure maintenance. All this will go hand in hand with ecological restoration, maintenance, and protection of the floodplains," observed the bench, also comprising Justice Manmeet PS Arora, in an order passed on April 8.

"The DDA, in coordination with all concerned agencies, is hereby directed to ensure removal of encroachments from the Yamuna river floodplains. Further, the DDA shall submit an action taken report on the development of 10 biodiversity parks/wetland areas in the Yamuna river floodplain, including an action plan with timelines for completion of pending projects," it ordered.

The court observed that a large number of religious devotees pray at different locations and discharge solid waste in the river water, thus adding to an already serious problem. It asked the DDA to construct "ghats" or "platforms on stilts" for the devotees, which would enable the authorities to scientifically deal with the challenge of waste.

The court's order came on two suo motu petitions, initiated on its own, on the waterlogging problem in Delhi and on the issue of rainwater harvesting and easing traffic jams in the national capital during monsoon and other periods.

In the order, the bench noted that the recent flooding of the Yamuna showed that the 22-kilometre stretch of the river flowing through Delhi is "no longer navigable" and overflowed every monsoon as its riverbed has become high and the river shallow.

"We have been informed that the river has been consistently becoming shallow and hence lacks the capacity to carry excess water during the monsoon or maintain life during the rest of the year," the court noted.

"The DDA shall take up the matter with concerned authorities, such as Irrigation and Flood Control, National Ganga Mission etc, for carrying out controlled and scientific dredging for removal of silt both upstream and downstream and for creation of series of small ponds adjoining the river to improve the carrying capacity of the river Yamuna. This exercise shall be done on a war footing and be completed by 30th June 2025," directed the court.

The court further directed the city authorities to complete the geo-tagging and geo-referencing of 1,023 water bodies by May 15 and ensure that estimates for their rejuvenation are prepared by May 30.

To ensure that the water bodies remain encroachment free, it directed the Delhi government to take appropriate measures for making relevant entries in revenue records and assigning responsibilities of their upkeep to specific officials.

It also asked the city government to explore creating rainwater harvesting systems in low-lying areas to capture the rainwater during the forthcoming monsoon session and ensure public participation to make it a mass movement.

The court directed the authorities to ensure that a rainwater harvesting system is provided in over 1,362 government buildings by September 30 and check the existence and functionality of such systems before granting Occupation Certificate as per law.

To verify the actions taken by the agencies on ground, the court said the authorities shall undertake a third party audit by the central government or the state government or their PSUs.

"This would ensure that the work done are realised at ground instead of being done on paper only. First of such report of third party(s)audit shall be made available in the public domain by 30th June, 2024," it ordered.

The matter will be heard next on May 20.

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