Yamuna Nama: a book review

Born out of citizens' concern for the Yamuna, the bi-lingual Yamuna Manifesto presents a lucid and succinct snapshot of the river, it's troubles, and the potential for its resuscitation.
22 Dec 2013
0 mins read
Yamuna river (Source: www.pilgrimageindia.net)
Yamuna river (Source: www.pilgrimageindia.net)

The Yamuna Manifesto -or Yamuna Nama- is a bilingual book with passages in both Hindi and English, published as part of the Yamuna Elbe project. In five deceptively short sections, the book takes us from the birth to the river to its future. The Manifesto is exhaustively researched and includes in one volume authentic data about dams, pollution, withdrawals, and flood plain encroachment on the river.

Meet the Yamuna: The book begins with a basic overview of the characteristics of a river, and of this one in particular. Statistics about the Yamuna are presented, along with a basin-level map. This map also includes existing and proposed dams and canals.

The river that becomes a drain:  It then moves on to a description of the state of the river today, with information about its tributaries (which add water to the river) and barrages (which withdraw water from the river). The map that details the massive diversions on the river is the section that tends to make one weep at human arrogance and folly. As in the case of the Arakot Tiuni Hydropower Project, not just sections of a river, but whole rivers are robbed of their waters. A look at the map gives one a sense of the magnitude of this crime against our ecological heritage.

If this was not enough, the map is supplemented with a detailed account of the damage caused by each dam. This account points out that below Dakpathar in Dehradun district of Uttarakhand, a mere 172 kms from the source of this 1,376 km long river, there is no free flowing stretch at all. It has been strangled before completing even one tenth of its journey.

Has the state been fiddling?: Not pulling any punches, the book then considers how the river got to this state. 30 pages of irrefutable evidence of encroachments winked at by the state, of budgets made and funds spent without any impact, of malfunctioning wastewater treatment plants leave the reader with no choice but to agree with the authors about the lack of governance.

The river is a victim of the current idea of development: Are rivers merely conduits for water like the pipes that we use or are they ecological entities with a connection to the larger ecosystem? It is sad that this is still a question to be debated. This penultimate section pleads for the latter.

The road ahead: This section concerns itself with the future of the river. It examines laws in practice that can be used to defend the Yamuna and presents a blueprint that just might restore some of its' past glory to the river that is today, a drain.

After presenting the facts, the Yamuna Manifesto ends with a section on the art created as part of Project Y.

Want the book? Download it here or call/write to SANDRP for a copy.

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