The unquiet river: An overview of select decisions of the courts on the river Yamuna
This report by Ritwick Dutta presents an overview of the legislation on the river Yamuna.
14 Jan 2012

The river has attained the distinction of being perhaps the river attracting the most judicial attention in india, after the Ganga. This report analyses the various laws and judicial decisions pertaining to the Yamuna and their effects on the river.Cover page of 'The unquiet river'The report is organised into the following chapters:

1. The Yamuna in the Supreme Court

Over the last three decades, the Supreme Court has attempted to goad the administration to act on a number of issues ranging from mining in the catchment area through pollution to encroachments on the river bed. The Court acknowledges, however that its directives have failed to rid the administration of its apathy towards the river. This section deals with the following cases:

  • Mining: The 'Doon mining case' which concerned itself with stopping mining activities in Mussoorie, which is in the catchment of the Yamuna.
  • Environmental Flows: The Cdr Sureshwar Sinha case which seeks to enforce measures to ensure the quality and quantity of flows in the Yamuna. The arguments in the case, its implications and the measures to be implemented are all discussed in detail
  • Water quality: The court took suo moto action based on a 1994 news item titled 'And quiet flows the maily Yamuna' (AQFMY). Here the court emphasized that the authorities need to take effective steps to deal with the quality of water.
  • solid waste management: The BL Wadhera Case sought directions to the MCD and the NDMC to perform their duty related to the removal, collection and disposal of garbage in the city.
  • Taj Heritage Corridor: The court ruled against the diversion of the river Yamuna and construction on the river bed in the vicinity of the Taj Mahal
  • Unregulated construction: The Akshardham temple, Commonwealth games village, and DMRC depot are some examples of the high-profile construction that has been carried out on the river bed. The Court rulings on each are discussed in detail.

2. Yamuna in the High Courts

This section concerns itself with the various cases dealt with by the state high courts on the Yamuna. The issues are as follows:

  • Himachal Pradesh High Court
    • Drugs in the river
  • Allahabad High Court
    • The Yamuna at Krishna's abode
    • Crematorium on the banks
    • Protecting the rights of the traditional user
  • Delhi High court
  • There is blood in the river
  • Making Yamuna the Thames (Channelisation of the Yamuna)
  • Securing the river bed 
  • Bringing Dubai to Delhi (Environmental impact of a shopping festival in Times Global village)

3. Final Words

The author concludes with saying that revival of the Yamuna is a judicial challenge, which the Courts have tried to meet by putting forth several solutions including stipulating minimum flows in the river; segregation of wastes; erection of sewage treatment plants; directing that no dumping of garbage should take place; regulating slaughter houses and removing slums and encroachments from the river bed. However, the judicial activism over the Yamuna struggles with apathy on the part of the bureaucracy with the court directives being met with lip service and little else.

The appendices contain additional facts and documents. These are as follows:

  • Appendix 1: Chronology of removal of JJ structures from the river bed
  • Appendix 2: Chronology of AQFM case
  • Appendix 3: Minutes, reports and orders of 'The Yamuna-Removal of encroachments monitoring committee'
  • Appendix 4: 16th report of the Yamuna-Removal of encroachments monitoring committee'
  • Appendix 5; Why river front development on the lines of European rivers is not a viable option in India

This report was part of a project titled Mainstreaming the river as a popular civil action ‘cause’ through “motivating actions for the revival of the people – river close links as a precursor to citizen’s mandated actions for the revival of the life-line river in the city”.

Read the entire report here 

Other relevant reports on the issue are here:

  1. Reviving River Yamuna – An actionable blue print for a blue river
  2. Impact assessment of bridges and barrages on River Yamuna
  3. Sick Yamuna, sick Delhi – Searching a correlation






Posted by
Get the latest news on water, straight to your inbox
Subscribe Now
Continue reading