National Cleanliness Day: NGT ‘Order’ & Waste Dumped Into Yamuna

30 January is observed as National Cleanliness Day. But can days like these help save India’s polluted rivers?

Updated
India
3 min read
 A boy wades through a canal near Kalyanpuri with the remains of the recently held Chhath Puja. (Photo: <b>The Quint</b>)

30 January is observed as National Cleanliness Day. The day ostensibly calls for high standards of cleanliness in our public places. But rhetoric is not enough to tackle the polluted mess that is India’s major rivers. This article was first published on The Quint last month, and explores the Yamuna, one of India’s most polluted rivers.

Twenty-five-year-old Naushad’s day begins with an anxious wait on the Yamuna Bridge that links Geeta Colony to Rajghat in the national capital. As a commuter stops on the bridge to throw religious offerings or domestic waste into the Yamuna, Naushad and his team members readily offer their services. They take the waste and throw it into the river, all for a mere Rs 5.

A team of seven kids managed by Naushad collects garbage from the river and fishes out stuff that can be sold in the scrap market or chor bazaar. Naushad’s team has three divers who collect garbage and valuables from the river. This is how Naushad and his team make a living every day.

Waste Management is a New Business

Valuables are segregated from garbage. (Photo: <b>The Quint</b>)
Valuables are segregated from garbage. (Photo: The Quint)

The Yamuna has provided a steady source of income to people like Naushad and many others living along the riverside or in the nearby slums.

 Kids throw religious offerings and domestic waste in the Yamuna. (Photo: <b>The Quint</b>)
Kids throw religious offerings and domestic waste in the Yamuna. (Photo: The Quint)

Ragpickers and scrap dealers segregate the valuables from garbage which includes flowers, food items, idols etc.

And when they get lucky, they even find gold or silver coins. Their earnings especially go up during the festive season.

‘Nobody Cares About the Fine’

Garbage thrown into the Yamuna includes flowers, food items, idols etc. (Photo: <b>The Quint</b>)
Garbage thrown into the Yamuna includes flowers, food items, idols etc. (Photo: The Quint)

Over the years, the number of people dumping waste into the Yamuna has increased. Naushad says he has collected more garbage than usual in the last one year. His daily income has also increased.

And he is not afraid of any fine.

When the government has no fear, why should the people worry? The number of people throwing garbage into the Yamuna has increased in the last one year alone.
Naushad
 A child collecting garbage from the river. (Photo: <b>The Quint</b>)
A child collecting garbage from the river. (Photo: The Quint)

The National Green Tribunal has levied a fine of Rs 5,000 for throwing waste or religious items into the river. It also laid out a series of guidelines after hearing a PIL on saving the Yamuna. People are aware of the fine but nobody cares.

Evidently, there is no monitoring of the menace. The last fine was imposed during Chhath Puja.

Despite strong guidelines, the NGT’s order still remains only on paper.

Even the Delhi government, which organises festivals along the river bank has failed to tackle the garbage. It also failed to implement the NGT order.
Manoj Mishra, Organiser, ‘Yamuna Jiye’ Abhiyan

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