Pollution in Delhi: praying in the poisonous river

Status: 11/11/2021 12:27 p.m.

It looks like snow: white foam billows on the Yamuna flowing through Delhi – of all things during a religious festival when believers bathe in the river. The problem: the foam is poisonous.

By Peter Hornung, ARD Studio New Delhi

Arvend is holding a small metal potty with water from the Yamuna River in it. He says he came to Delhi especially from Bihar state because he wanted to thank you for making a wish come true.

Peter Hornung
ARD Studio New Delhi

“I wanted a son, and he has now been born. And now I’ve come to thank the river. But I didn’t know that you weren’t allowed to bathe, so I just bottled the water.

Bathe? Too dangerous”

The police are now driving out everyone who wants to swim in the river by order of the disaster control authority – too dangerous, they say. But they let Arvend through – after he had shown them the potty he wanted to fill.

“I know that the water is poisonous. But that is our tradition. We get the water, offer it to God. The water serves our spiritual purification.”

Foam everywhere in the Yamuna: The authorities are trying to dissolve the foam with boats.


Religious festival with traditional bathing in the Yamuna

This week the ‘Chhath Puja’ is celebrated, a religious festival in honor of the sun god Surya, during which believers traditionally bathe in the Yamuna. But since last weekend of all times, white foam had formed on the river, in thick layers. At first glance great pictures, which then promptly went around the world: traditionally colorfully dressed women in this white mass that looks like snow. But it’s just pure poison.

Sewage and effluent from dye works in the river

That’s because everything is channeled into the river, said activist Varun Gulati. “Untreated sewage and the outflows from dye works go directly into the Yamuna. Everyone can see the condition, but where exactly is this dirty water coming into the Yamuna from? The culprits for this problem are our government, and the inadequate water purification and the Sewage treatment plants. “

1300 kilometers long and dirty

The more than 1300 kilometers long Yamuna is one of the most polluted bodies of water in the world – and here in Wazirabad, a district in the northeast of Delhi, almost everything comes together when it comes to environmental pollution: the poisonous river water and the incredibly bad air in the Indian one, especially in November Capital city.

“Be afraid, be very afraid,” said the news portal “India Today”. But the authorities only shrug their shoulders.

Dirty water from several states

There is nothing you can do with the water, it is someone else’s fault, said a senior official at the Delhi Water Authority. “The water comes from the states of Uttar Pradesh and Haryana. It’s so dirty because it contains industrial waste, untreated detergents, pollutants and ammonia that cause the foam. But that’s not pollution or industrial waste from Delhi.”

Dissolve foam with boats

Scientists contradict here that Delhi is very well one of the main polluters. The city administration, however, is apparently primarily concerned with the appearance. They have now used 15 boats to dissolve the foam. And a reporter from the Indian news agency ANI was able to track down a man who was holding a water hose on mountains of foam on behalf of the city.

He’s doing this to make the foam go away, he says openly. That doesn’t solve the problem in any way. But at least there are no more new pictures of the poisonous pseudo snow that are going around the world.

White foam on the Yamuna – pollution in Delhi

Peter Hornung, ARD New Delhi, 11.11.2021 11:16 am


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