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The sad state of River Yamuna

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By Vyna Malhotra

Recently, the students of Middle-Years-Programme- II and III visited the Okhla Bird Sanctuary in Noida to cover ‘Yamuna River’ a source of birds and other species.

During the visit, students were first shown a video about the sanctuary and later were taken on a walk through the sanctuary where they were able to spot various birds like the grey heron and the kingfisher. They also encountered some monkeys and a great variety of flora.

Students also caught a glimpse of the Yamuna River which was the brown-blue colour. The Yamuna is a very important part of India and its culture. It is obvious that the Yamuna, often called Delhi’s lifeline, is gasping for life. The 22-km stretch along the National Capital has virtually no aquatic life — thanks to over 20 drains that pour untreated sewage and other waste into the river. The Yamuna then merges into the river Ganga at a place called Allahabad.

The Yamuna is one of the most polluted rivers not only in North India, but in the entire country. Whenever we imagine a river, we see an endless flow of blue waters, but that is not the case with the Yamuna. The length of the Yamuna from Okhla Barrage to Wazirabad is 22-km, and this portion is solely responsible for 80 percent of Yamuna’s pollution.

Animals are the most vulnerable as they get harmed by plastic debris and other pollutants in waters that eventually reach the ocean.  Pollutants in the water can make their way back to humans. Small organisms ingest toxins and are eaten by larger predators, many of which make up the seafood that we eventually eat. When the toxins in contaminated animals get deposited in human tissue, it can lead to long-term health conditions such as cancer, birth defects, reduced growth and development, cancer, organ damage, nervous system damage, etc.

All this waste material makes its way into the Ganga and then into the Bay of Bengal, which is the northernmost part of the Indian Ocean.

While the students were on tour through the sanctuary, I noticed that there weren’t many birds. The migratory season ideally begins in the month of September. However, the migratory bird population has declined over time due to the pollution of the river Yamuna. It is affecting many of the fauna and flora, and indirectly humans. If we do not come to the rescue of the Yamuna now, it will eventually reach the ocean and harm not only us, but the whole world.

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