Batting to end all encroachments and to enforce a ban on developmental activities on the floodplains of River Yamuna, the Union ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF) said on Friday that a dedicated 'river policing' unit should be set up to stop unauthorised construction and maintain the ecological integrity of the river.
It also said the entire 52-km stretch of the Yamuna in Delhi and UP should be declared a 'conservation zone' in order to frame proper rules for permitting/prohibiting human activities.
The MoEF recommendations came in the form of a report to the National Green Tribunal (NGT) for saving Yamuna.
Acting on a complaint by environmentalist Manoj Mishra regarding "serious degradation" of the river, NGT last year asked MoEF to submit a comprehensive report for restoration, preservation and beautification of the river, as well as identify people who should carry out the work.
The report states: "No filling of floodplains should be allowed in the name of development of ghats" and "all settlements encroaching the floodplains should be relocated at the earliest".
It has also sought immediate action for identifying "additional landfill sites, catering to the next 25 years of requirement" as there is shortage of landfill sites in Delhi.
"No development activity should be permitted within the river zone that encroaches on the active floodplain, obstructs the flow or pollutes the river (solid waste or wastewater)," the report says, adding that existing constructions like the Commonwealth Games Village, Akshardham Temple, thermal power plants, etc should be regulated so that they do not impact the water quality or flow of the river. "Barbed wire fencing" should be considered in highly vulnerable areas to prevent encroachment and waste dumping, the report says.
The ministry has also criticised the Delhi Development Authority (DDA) saying that its "Yamuna Riverfront Development (YRFD) scheme is untenable and should be stopped". "DDA itself admits that riverfront refers to the area that lies outside the embankments … but the area of the proposed YRFD is within the active floodplain," the MOEF report said.
The MoEF has recommended a slew of measures like controlled dredging, construction of culverts, development of wetlands and floodplain vegetation having native biodiversity, development of green belt on both sides of the embankments, controlling of sewage pollution, etc for saving the Yamuna. It also said agricultural activity on floodplains should be regulated to totally prohibit the use of pesticides and fertilisers.
The ministry has also called for a separate programme for promoting public awareness on river conservation and community participation in restoration, management and monitoring of the river.