Why The Sweet Fruit Of Yamuna Floodplains Is Better Avoided
The sight is so tempting that many drivers stop their cars to buy farm-fresh fruits and vegetables being sold over the many bridges across the Yamuna in national capital Delhi. When compared to the lot sold in other markets in the city, these vegetables look much greener and fresher, and the sellers see their stuff getting sold like hotcakes. Not many buyers are aware — this is true of sellers as well — that fruits and vegetables grown on the Yamuna floodplains are highly contaminated. Reason: the river is as good as a dirty drain and consuming these vegetables can cause life-threatening diseases. A report by think-tank The Energy and Resource Institute (TERI) in 2012 confirmed the presence of heavy metals in crops watered by the Yamuna.
While the public sentiment went against the move when the Delhi Development Authority (DDA) last month freed the Yamuna Khadar at Nangli Rajapur village near Sarai Kale Khan of encroachments by farmers, the body actually might have done more good than it had intended to. Through its demolition drive, the development body intends to free 4,806 acres of such land. Even if the land near the Yamuna is providing housing and employment at the cost of encroachment, this is not an ideal scenario.
Apart from doing themselves a great harm, encroachers of such land might be the ignorant cause of planting dangerous diseases in fellow humans. In a city where the air quality has been a butt of criticism and concern, at least what we get on our plates should be edible enough.
Because of an ambiguity on the norms on preservation and growth along rivers and surrounding areas, the development activity had led to a great amount of water pollution in India. When it comes to water quality, major Indian cities lie at the bottom of global surveys. However, when the final guidelines on river regulation zones are out, they are expected to clear much of the ambiguity regarding riverfronts and floodplains.
Despite a tremendous rise in the city population and the lack of job opportunities for unskilled workers, any settlement near the Yamuna is suicidal and killer at the same time. City authorities may have to work harder to rehabilitate the displaced farmers. Nevertheless, the cost of such efforts would be much less than the cost of human lives.