New Delhi: “Don’t focus on cleaning of Yamuna, focus on making it healthy. If Yamuna is healthy, Delhi will survive. If Yamuna is sick, Delhi will be sick,” says Manoj Mishra, a well known activist and convenor of Yamuna Jiye Abhiyan.
Mishra in a chat with CitySpidey shared about how he started his campaign to make Yamuna live forever and how the river can be made healthy.
Manoj Mishra is a name associated with river Yamuna in Delhi as he has been carrying a campaign to make it live forever. The campaign named “Yamuna Jiye Abhiyan” has been instrumental in making the river alive and so the system aware and awaken to think and to do something for the the river.
Love for the river has been with Mishra since his childhood as he belongs to Kotdwar, Uttarakhand where a river named ‘Khoh’ a main tributary to Ganga made him fascinated to know about river.
In 1996 he shifted to Delhi leaving his job from forest department. He was living in Mayur Vihar near the bank of Yamuna. He shared, “I was not aware about the river Yamuna. My knowledge was as equal as a common person. With the time I realised that there is a river which is life line of Delhi and has been in poor state. So I started knowing about it and decided to do something for this river which later (after 10 years) became “Yamuna Jiye Abhiyan”.
Mishra says that the formal beginning happened in 2007 in which many activists and institutions joined hands together to make collective efforts to save Yamuna. In his words, “From 2006 to 2007 we did research on the subject. We visited Hathinikund and then learnt about what is the real crisis. We knew that pollution is not the real crisis but the crisis is due to two reasons. The first is the decreasing water in river bed causing dryness due to diversion of water and the second one is the encroachment in the floodplain causing sickness of the river.”
“Then we made a proper presentation for Yamuna and invited those people who were working on river and water in Delhi. We discussed on the presentation and the crisis and then we decided to move ahead. Commander S Sinha, Samar Singh and HS Pawar were made patron and I was made convenor for the mission as I coined and initiated the idea. In our mission six or seven organisation joined hands together and that is how a total about 20 people started the mission collectively.”
Mishra believes, river is life and its life is its flow which is continuous. So we thought to name our mission in such a way that it could give a meaning of continuity and associated with the river. That is why we named it “Yamuna Jiye Abhiyan.” ‘Jiye’ is the word in Hindi which shows continuous living. So a river must live forever that is why we chose the word and so such name.
Mishra focuses on the concept of making a river alive by making it healthy. In his concept cleaning is not the solution to make a river alive but giving space and time with proper measures to river to become rejuvenate naturally.
He explains, “For me and for our mission the word ‘Clean’ for a river is never justified. We showed our presentation made on Yamuna more than 200 times at different places and focussed that clean Yamuna or clean river is not the solution. I would like to mention that the word ‘clean’ first time was coined in 1984 with Ganga cleaning mission and then in 1994 with Yamuna cleaning. There is no need to clean the rivers as they can clean themselves naturally. So we need to change the grammar and make efforts accordingly.”
“There is a need to make the rivers healthy and not need to focus on making them clean. A healthy river can be a clean river but a clean river can not be healthy river. A river has horizon more than its cleanliness and it has a dynamic system having an ecosystem. In that, the floodplain itself is as important as river. I can say the floodplain is also a river and part of river because in rain the river flows in that area. If you encroach the floodplain then the health of the river will be affected.”
“Secondly, I would like to say that a river is always a flowing source of water. So a concept of healthy river could make it possible with its own biodiversity and ecosystem. We raised all such subjects in front of many, also in front of President APJ Abdul Kalam in March 2007. But despite that things could not turn as it had to be. After that we made several presentations and tried what we could for Yamuna.
Mishra has a great belief that one day Yamuna would be in its original shape like a healthy river full of water. He is very optimistic about that. “Yamuna herself has showed this during lockdown in 2020 since March. That time in Uttarakhand, there was a good rain and that water came to Yamuna without any industrial pollutants from in its way because all the industries were closed that time. That time we were able to see the surface under the water. So the river proved naturally that if you stop industrial pollutants and let the river live naturally, then it would make herself health and clean.”
According to Mishra, Governments want to do something but that seems not effective on the ground since beginning. “In January 2015, NGT gave a road map for Yamuna and it was holistic. This was milestone judgement and it was said by the NGT that how the Yamuna could be made alive and healthy. NGT gave a period of two years till 2017 to Delhi Government to do the needful but nothing happened. This made us sad. In 2018 a monitoring committee was made for Yamuna and a 16 point recommendation was given as judgment not for only Delhi but for other states too for Yamuna. I do not know what happened after that but gathered that in 2020 that monitoring committee was dismissed and the subject was handed over to chief secretary to Delhi. Now the state government is doing its part but not in a comprehensive way and that is because the closing of the Yamuna monitoring committee. How effective would be the results with such scattered efforts is a matter of time,” says Mishra.
Manoj Mishra has dedicated his life for the river and he wants the community and authorities both must do something effective to make Yamuna alive and to live forever. In his message he says, “Yamuna is lifeline of Delhi. If Yamuna lives, Delhi will be living. If Yamuna gets sick the National Capital would be sick. So make Yamuna healthy.”