New Delhi: Taking strict note of how sand mining activity in India’s “sacred” river Yamuna was destroying its flora and fauna, the Delhi High Court has directed the Haryana government to ensure that adequate water was provided to Delhi and to monitor the river through live Google mapping.
The court on 25 May directed the Haryana government to ensure that water is supplied to the national capital without any hindrance after it was told there were ‘bunds’ on river Yamuna at several places apart from mining activity. The court’s order came on a plea filed by DJB seeking sufficient water supply for Delhi.
“There should be no hindrance in flow of water from there (Haryana) to Delhi,” a bench of Chief Justice Rajendra Menon and Justice A.J. Bhambhani observed in their order.
The direction came after a committee, constituted by the high court to inspect whether ‘bunds’ have been put in the canals carrying water meant for Delhi, told the bench that such obstructions were found at 11 locations on the Yamuna.
The committee, also comprising retired high court judge Indermeet Kaur and amicus curiae Rakesh Khanna, and retired additional chief secretary Nivedita Haran, submitted a report stating that apart from the ‘bunds’, there was large-scale mining in Yamuna and one of its tributaries, the Somb.
The report clearly said that mining was “causing huge environmental damage to the flora and fauna” in and around the river bed, further adding that the ‘bunds’ had severely affected the flow of water in the Yamuna.
‘Holding back information’
While recommending the removal of all these ‘bunds’, the committee in its report also said, “The state of Haryana has deliberately and intentionally kept back the information regarding the details of mining site permits along the river Yamuna. Holding back of such information shows that the state was trying to provide a cover to the activities affecting not only the flow of water, but also causing environmental pollution.”
The committee was also of the view that the flow of water in the Yamuna needed to be monitored and suggested the installation of flow meters.
However, the suggestions were opposed by Haryana, which said it wanted to file its objections to the findings given in the report.
The court gave Haryana time till 22 July to file its objections.
Meanwhile, it gave directions that no ‘bunds’ must be created on the river. In case they are, Haryana has been directed to remove them immediately and take action against those responsible.
The court also told the DJB as well as the Haryana government to install Ultra-Sonic Flow Meters to measure and monitor the quantity of water flowing along the river within June. Both have to submit the measurements on the next date of hearing.
Will Google mapping serve purpose?
Speaking to ThePrint, experts said live Google mapping — tech giant Google’s web mapping service — may not be able to help monitor activities around the river.
“Live Google mapping will not be able to show the images required of the current period. It will show dated images and hence this could remain a concern,” said advocate Sumeet Pushkarma.
Ramesh Negi, former Delhi chief secretary who also served as chief executive of the Delhi Jal Board (DJB), said it’s not the first time that such a suggestion has been made but its success depends upon trial.
“Satellite imagery usually helps in mapping but whether Google mapping can detect the presence of bunds as is required will have to be seen,” said Negi.
Negi referred to the satellite imagery use in Goa’s Coastal Regulation Zones where it worked successfully, but added that it’s not necessary if the same would work in this case.