Nature Has Stopped Healing: Toxic Foam Covers the Yamuna River


Nature Has Stopped Healing: Toxic Foam Covers the Yamuna River

Illustration: Shruti Yatam

The Yamuna River is one of North India’s most important water sources and the largest tributary of the Ganga. In Delhi alone, its waters are responsible for sustaining the lives of millions. Unfortunately, industrial pollution and human apathy have led to this once pristine river looking like a dystopian hellscape instead. A few days ago, on November 1, the waters of the Yamuna were covered in toxic foam, a phenomenon that has been recurring in recent years. Experts believe that the reason for the creation of toxic foam is a high phosphate content caused by the presence of industrial pollutants.

The re-emergence of toxic foam on the Yamuna’s surface coincides with a period of increasing air pollution in Delhi. As per the Air Quality Index, Delhi’s air quality was measured as “poor” this week. And even as the air quality dips, pollution rears its head in the waters as well. The capital city is currently dealing with two environmental crises unfolding simultaneously.

Earlier this week, the child environmental activist Licypriya Kangujam, sometimes called “the Indian Greta Thunberg” also drew attention to the deteriorating quality of the Yamuna River. In a series of posts on Twitter, she not only questioned where the money being spent on governmental efforts to clean the river were going, but also outlined its importance to the people who live in and around Delhi.

While the Yamuna got a respite from all the pollution earlier this year thanks to the national lockdown, those days seem to be in the past. As recently as April this year, the Ministry of Jal Shakti was sharing photos of a scenic Yamuna appearing clean, healthy, and pollution-free, along with a message to keep it that way. Unfortunately, that didn’t last long.

And in January this year, right before his government was re-elected, Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal promised to make the Yamuna so clean that Delhiites would be able to bathe in its waters.

No matter how much we might have appreciated the unspoiled beauty of the river, it seems that humans can’t help themselves when it comes to pollution.