Justin Vela

Archive for the ‘Enviroment’ Category

Turkey’s green energy village…

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Istanbul- Last week I published a story on green energy in Turkey with EurasiaNet.org

Turkey: Betting on Wind Power, One Village at a Time

The story focuses on the rural village of Akbiyik in Turkey’s Western Bursa province, which has high hopes for a windmill it built to provide green energy.

From the story:

Akbiyik, a village with 365 residents in Turkey’s western Bursa province, has a head start on the country’s plans to increase domestic energy production. The reason is simple — it has a wind turbine and villagers eager to capitalize on a government push toward alternative energies.

Read the full article with a photo essay here. 

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Written by Justin Vela

October 30, 2011 at 4:01 pm

New article on Helsinki’s green data center out now…

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HELSINKI-Read my new article in the May 2010 issue of Monocle on Helsinki’s green database center.

Monocle subscribers can read the article online here.

Written by Justin Vela

April 19, 2010 at 10:49 am

Heat for Heating at Allvoices.com

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A woman walks around the 150 year old Uspenski Cathedral in downtown Helsinki, Finland on 6 December 2009.

Helsinki-Read my story on a database center heating homes in Helsinki at Allvoices.com

I became involved with Allvoices last week when I saw their posting on JournalismJobs.com

Allvoices, one of the largest global citizen journalism sites, recently hired 50 journalists from around the world to bring a wider range of stories and additional credibility to their  stories.

This is an exciting opportunity that will have me working on 2-3 stories a month for Allvoices, as well as continuing to freelance.

An excerpt from my story on the database servers:


“We have to be realistic. There is really no other choice. Our customers are forcing us to look at more environmentally friendly ways of doing business. And there is the saving cost. There is not any conflict between those areas. People believed a couple of years ago that being Green meant higher costs. This is not necessarily the way anymore.”

Written by Justin Vela

December 7, 2009 at 5:22 pm

Posted in Enviroment, Europe

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Along The Yamuna River…Yamuna River Article…

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Farmers that will soon be forced to leave their homes in the Yamuna River Floodplain as Delhi prepares to host the 2010 Commonwealth Games.

Farmers that will soon be forced to leave their homes in the Yamuna River floodplain as Delhi prepares to host the 2010 Commonwealth Games.

This is the unedited version of an article written for The Caravan in New Delhi, India.

Along the Yamuna River
Justin Vela

It’s a clear hot July day, and the 55 Class VII students from the exclusive Vasant Valley School Vimlendu Jha is leading on a walk along the Yamuna River sigh.  Instead of taking two buses and each having a seat to themselves, they will instead use only one bus and share seats. This may not be their ideal way to travel to a field trip, but Jha isn’t going to let them pollute the air by taking two busses when they are already headed to one of the world’s most polluted rivers.

“When you are saving something it causes some inconvenience,” says Jha.

Beginning at Yamunotri, high in the Himalaya, the Yamuna flows through India for a total of 1,370 kilometres before merging with the Ganges in Allahabad. The river starts its journey pristinely clean, but when it reaches Delhi, it transforms into a dark, sewage-filled mess, devoid even of oxygen. The head of Swechha, a Delhi based organisation dedicated to saving the river, Jha is taking the children to see the Yamuna in hope that they will understand the dire condition of the river and see a connection between themselves and the environment.

“These are the sons and daughters of ministers, media people and heads of corporations,” Jha says. “They are the next generation of leaders and I want to get something to register with them now while they are young. I want them to think why the river is alive around the undeveloped people and why it dies when it comes to the educated people.”

This is an unfortunate fact. At the Wazirabad barrage, where the Yamuna enters Delhi, the children smell the river before they see it. Even one hundred metres away the wind brings the stench of the water into the bus. Piling out, the children gape in horror. The colour of the Yamuna is inky black. This is the place where the water from the largest of Delhi’s 22 drains joins the river.

Even from several meters above the drain, it is possible to make out the hundreds of small gaseous bubbles that float across the surface of the putrid water. The blackness is impenetrable. Yet Jha explains to the children that the water from this drain has actually been cleaned. It consists of waste water from Delhi’s homes that has been treated at one of the city’s 17 sewage treatment plants (STPs) and is flowing back into the Yamuna as theoretically clean water. The water is still so dirty and putrid smelling, however, that the children utter a phrase never heard from children, “When will we go back to school?”

“People bathe in this,” Jha tells them.

“Eeww!” they exclaim.

Jha’s initial reaction to the Yamuna was similar to that of the children’s. From Bhagalpur in Bihar, Jha first saw the Yamuna in 1997 when he arrived in Delhi to attend university at St Stephen’s College. He describes being taken aback at the river’s filth. “I came to Delhi with such expectations. This is a big city…it has everything extra large so how can the river be extra polluted? I started thinking about it.”

Jha found that though the extremity of the Yamuna’s pollution is no secret, no one was “shouting or screaming” over the condition of the river. When he went to government organisations to see what he could find out, there were only a few reports on the Yamuna and nearly all pointed out only the problems, not the solutions. If solutions were suggested, they were strictly technical. There was no one talking about what Indian society could do for the river.

After university, Jha took a year off and devoted himself to learning about the Yamuna. Within a week of talking passionately about the facts of the river, several people joined him and they founded Swechha, dedicating themselves to educating people about the condition of the Yamuna.

“A lot of times when trying to find out facts, we were looked down upon in some way,” Jha says. “Young people in their early 20s trying to do something for the river. They said the river is a big problem…what do you know…what will you ever be? That gave me a lot of frustration and at the same time strength to know that young people do not always have to be passive recipients of the doings of our elders, but need to also be active in what they own.”

It is this philosophy of participation that fuels Jha in his fight for the Yamuna. When he returned to Delhi after earning his masters degree at the Tata Institute of Social Sciences in Mumbai, he realised that it wasn’t just the Yamuna he needed to focus on. There was more to the river than simply pollution. The Yamuna encompasses a much larger issue: how Indian society interacts with its natural resources.

Jha decided to talk to people about the pollution of the Yamuna being a problem of lifestyle and attitude. By campaigning for the Yamuna he wanted to make people think about “where they were in a city and what they were doing in a democracy” to establish within people that they both “affect and are affected” by the Yamuna and the rest of the environment.

This has not been an easy task. For as much attention as Jha has focused on the Yamuna, the river has only become more polluted. The little effort that has been made to clean the river has involved the Delhi government-sponsored Yamuna Action Plans (YAPs) which Delhi Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit declared to be complete failures last June. “It is a matter of shame that the Yamuna has been reduced to a condition worse than a drain,” Dikshit said, after thousands of crores had already been spent on the project.

If not into the river then where the money has gone is a matter of the age-old tradition known as corruption. Delhi is preparing to host the 2010 Commonwealth Games, but Dikshit said the Yamuna would not be cleaned in time as originally hoped. Indeed, cleaning the river will take at least seven to eight more years.

Will that be fast enough to save the Yamuna? Delhi is rapidly modernising and developing. The changes that will take place in those seven to eight years will be vast. The priorities of the Indian society will also change, as people like Jha believe they must. But what kind of action will be made from those changes is unknown. The Yamuna’s condition seems to worsen every day, despite its importance to so many people.

When he was young, Ajay Yaav used to throw coins into the Yamuna and watch them sink into the clear water. Now that is impossible. For years the water has been too dark to see a coin’s descent. Even the people that try to make a living by searching for coins thrown into the river have to wade around in the thick muck and feel for the coins without being able to see them. “Everything goes into the Yamuna,” Yaav says. “Plants…garbage…when someone demolishes a house even the bricks go into it.”

Yaav and three generations of his family are from Yamuna Bazaar, a neighbourhood of small houses along the river. According to Yaav, the homes in Yamuna Bazaar are about one hundred years old and, though they are crumbling in places, they are painted in deep blues and greens and retain the type of charm that is highly attractive to tourists. Despite this, no tourists come to Yamuna Bazaar, he says. The neighbourhood is not on the tourist map and there is a government plan to demolish the old homes and replace them with modern apartment buildings. Yaav thinks this is unfortunate, but the plan is supported by most Yamuna Bazaar residents, even though they have been given no assurances that they will live in the new buildings.

Most likely they will not. The men who live in Yamuna Bazaar are construction workers and boatmen. The women string flowers together and sell them for use in worshiping the river. Like most of the people living directly on the Yamuna, they struggle for their basic survival. They are not the type of people who can afford a newly built apartment.

It was for this reason that Yaav moved away from Yamuna Bazaar and the banks of the river. He grew up in the neighbourhood and returns to it frequently to sit on the moored boats and talk with his friends. But he lives with his wife and children in a different part of the city and works as a lifeguard at private swimming pools and clubs. “You can’t earn anything from a boat ride,” he says. “People move here thinking this is the best way to live and make money. Let’s buy a boat and sit here, they think. That is the best out of a worse situation.”

He explains that people carve out entire lifestyles that revolve around the river. They give rides on boats and sell flowers to pilgrims. They pray to it, and bathe and swim in it. The river is everything to them. Their livelihood, religion and recreation.

Yet in each section of Yamuna Bazaar, there are only one or two hand pumps for water. Three community toilet houses must serve for 5,000 people. A few homes have their own toilets, but it is because of this overall shortage of toilets that many people still defecate into the river.

“No one has ever come to talk to us about the pollution in the Yamuna,” Yaav says. “Everyone knows, but does nothing.”

He says that it was in the 1980s, when India began to industrialise, that he began to notice the river’s rising pollution level. The river changed over a period of 20 years, slowly becoming the dark mess it was today. During the monsoon season the river looks slightly better, but afterwards it returns to its now sadly normal state.

As Yaav speaks, there are families sitting outside their houses on stoops. They watch the flow of the river and giggle about the day’s events. Men wash in the river. They soap themselves and then submerge, completely disappearing under the black water. The effect of washing in such water for one’s entire life undoubtedly contributes to shorter life-spans and the spread of disease, especially in such close living conditions as in Yamuna Bazaar. The Yamuna makes the lives of the people that live along its banks dangerously unhealthy.

Yet, the river is everything in their lives. A few kilometres upriver from Yamuna Bazaar, a priest named Umashankar Sharma says, “No one that comes to the Yamuna to bathe or drink for religious purposes gets sick.”

Sharma explains that his family lived at this place along the Yamuna for two generations. Their traditional job is to be available along the river every day to help the thousands of pilgrims who come to worship the river and rescue anyone who might fall into the water.

Three yeas ago, the government tore down the neighbourhood where Sharma and his family lived for two generations and moved all the residents to Bawana. The government ordered demolition, which may soon be the fate of Yamuna Bazaar, happened under the Yamuna Action Plan with a thinking that pollution would be lowered and that the river front could be made more attractive for investment.

The demolition may have been premature, however. According to studies conducted by the Center for Science and Environment, the pollution contributed to the Yamuna by the people that live in slums along the river is only about eight percent of the total level of pollution. “The pollution contributed by the gnats along the river is negligible,” says RK Srinivasan of the Center for Science and Environment. “Water usage from those unauthorised colonies is very little in comparison to what is used by the people from the city who have more ability to store and access water.”

Sharma and a number of his neighbours still come to the river every day. It is the only life they know and there has been no start to any beautification projects. They stand around the banks and sit under the trees, though their old homes have been destroyed. “If we are not going to be here who will save lives?” Sharma says. “The people the government recruits will not be here night and day. What if something happens at night? No one will be here. The whole world considers this river to be their mother goddess.”

All rivers in India, especially the Ganges and the Yamuna, are considered goddesses. The exception is the Brahmaputra in the northeast of the country, which is seen to be the embodiment of the son of creation and therefore a male. Millions of people worship rivers, and Sarandha, a Delhi activist who goes by one name, writes in her book In Search of Yamuna: Reflections on a River Lost that before the government started the demolition there were dozens of more temples along the river and that pilgrims would pay priests such as Sharma to help with prayers.

According to Hindu tradition, the Yamuna is considered to be the daughter of Surya and Sangya, the sun and the goddess of consciousness. Yamuna herself is considered to be the goddess of compassion and love. Some legends even say that she played consort to Krishna, who embodies love and romance in Hinduism. Other legends have her coming to existence out of the beads of sweat produced by Krishna and Radha, Krishna’s primary lover, while the couple was making love. At the same time, Yamuna’s twin brother, Yama, is the god of death. But according to Hindu tradition, anyone who is bathed as a child in the Yamuna’s waters will not fear death. The Yamuna protects her children from her brother.

While many of the rituals and stories surrounding the river remain, Sarandha says they are at the same time fading. The evolution of cultures is a natural event that has happened across time. With globalisation and advancement in technology and communications, those changes are in some places happening faster than is normal.

Traditions are being lost or replaced with the rapidly changing times.

After researching her book, Sarandha came to believe that the offerings left at the Yamuna contribute to the pollution. She describes people coming to the river and throwing a coconut, a traditional food of the gods, into the water and then dropping the plastic bag they had carried the fruit in onto the ground.

“I ask them why they are doing it and they tell me that they don’t know,” she says. “They have these expressionless, blank faces. They don’t know. They are blindly following tradition. I talk to priests and they say if you read the scriptures they explain the offerings, but most people don’t know why they do it.”

Sharma probably feels this lack of religious knowledge justifies his presence along the river. If people did not know how to make the prayers or why they were making them, he is available to explain. Despite his belief in the river however, he admits that it is deeply polluted. “Unless they clean the river, everything else is dirty around it,” Sharma says.
Agreeing with Yaav, he also says that the pollution of the Yamuna began when the factories and industrial plants began sending chemical waste into the Yamuna.

“The river changed,” he says. “There came to be no living things in it.”

As much as the people from the Yamuna’s banks claim to revere the river, there is a discrepancy between their words and actions.

It is not just the pilgrims and visitors to the river that say their prayers and leave the bags they carry their sacrifice in to be blown into the river. The people living on the river defecated and threw trash into it as well. Even Yaav who had spent his entire youth along the Yamuna tossed the plastic cups in which he had served milk tea into the bushes after discussing the river’s pollution.

It is as if they see the river and the land around it as one thing and the goddess Yamuna and her stories as something else entirely. But Hindu tradition speaks of them as one and the same.

Trash and waste are not the only things that residents of the river contribute to the pollution. Across the river, under Loha Bridge, a farmer named Ratanbaksh points to his fields.

“I have to use pesticides or my plants will catch worms,” he says.

Many farmers came to grow vegetables along the Yamuna because they are able to sell their produce for higher prices in Delhi than in most other parts of the country.

Ratanbaksh had owned land in Noida, on Delhi’s suburbs, but after being forced off his land due to development, he lives with his family in a small, one room hut in an impoverished community under the bridge. He rents his two acres of land for Rs 6,000 a year and pumps water from the Yamuna to irrigate his fields despite knowing how dirty it is. “People should think twice before praying to the Yamuna,” he says. Along with the pollution, he says, there is very thick mud in the river and that people occasionally get sucked in and drown.

Though he claims to understand the pollution he is contributing to the river, he has to use the pesticides to prevent worms in his vegetables. As it is, the national drought is already preventing him from producing enough crops this year and while he may break even and be able to feed his family, he does not know if he can afford to rent the land next year.

The six litres of monosynth pesticide he bought for Rs 300 is his only lifeline. Already the conditions in which he lives are rough. Snakes come into his home at night and he doesn’t have the money to send his six children to the school that is only two kilometres away.

The Yamuna is all that is keeping him alive, yet he is contributing to the death of river.

How the Yamuna has transformed from a pristine Himalayan river to a waste-filled swamp is a tale of colossal mismanagement and the growth of one of Asia’s largest cities.

Delhi is the centre of what some have called the “new Indian dream”. Thousands upon thousands of people from all over India and Asia are flocking to the city with hopes of finding jobs and livelihoods as the city furthers its quest to develop and modernise into something that city planners promise to be similar to New York and Shanghai.

Most people believe that Delhi’s race to develop began in 1982, the year the city hosted the Asian Games. Now, 28 years later, Delhi is about to host the 2010 Commonwealth Games and the city is undergoing another flurry of development. Metro lines and new buildings are going up. An entire Commonwealth Games Village is being built on the Yamuna’s floodplain.

The condition of the river is such despite the fact that Delhi is the national capital and has 40 percent of India’s sewage treatment plants. The STPs should have been releasing cleaned water back into the Yamuna, but because of under utilisation and disrepair, the water that flows into the Yamuna from Delhi’s drains is filthy.

It is not even possible to measure the amount of waste Delhi produces. The Delhi Jal Board measures amounts of waste in relation to water consumption; water is needed for waste to travel to the STPs. However, the Jal Board is only able to measure the waste that is consumed from public sources in official neighbourhoods. This means that the city’s actual water consumption is grossly underestimated. Delhi is home to more than 15,000 unauthorised colonies or neighbourhoods that migrants have set up without permission. The neighbourhoods get their water from pumps or it is driven in by a government truck every morning for crowds to clamour over.

With such an irregular system in place, the Jal Board has no ability to measure how much water is actually used in these numerous “unofficial colonies”. Private sources of water, such as wells on private property, are also not measured. Even the amount of public water the Jal Board is able to measure is underestimated. The meters used to calculate a house’s water usage is often either non-existent or broken.

If properly measured, Delhi’s official sewage generation would probably double. Many of the slums along the river which are generally blamed for the Yamuna’s pollution have been removed, but there is little change to the level of pollution in the river. In an interview, Jal Board PRO Sanjam Cheema says that it is now the slums further inside the city that contribute most of the pollution to the river.

“It’s a very complex issue,” Cheema says of pollution in the Yamuna. “Delhi has planned growth and unplanned growth. We are not supposed to lay sewer systems in unauthorised colonies and a proper waste conveyance system is not in place.”

Cheema will not admit however that Delhi’s wealthy may be more responsible for the Yamuna’s condition than the slum dwellers. While the rich do not live along the river’s banks, they do flush into it and use far more water. Officially, at least 57 percent of the city’s waste is dumped into the river, not including run off into the river from frequently broken and clogged swage pipes.

Yet most people in Delhi are oblivious to the river’s condition. It is something they do not have to contend with everyday. The river and its misery are unseen. It is barricaded away from the majority of the city by traffic and VIP memorials. Most people in Delhi did not have to think about the river or the money the government has unsuccessfully spent cleaning it. They do not even see it.

Another problem is that the river is stagnant for at least nine months a year. The water that flows down from the Himalaya is locked away from Delhi by the Wazirabad barrage. The barrage is supposed to serve as a reservoir for Delhi and to send water to the East and West Yamuna canals, which supply the majority of Delhi’s water and irrigates fields in Haryana, which controls the barrage. There is contention that Haryana is hoarding the water because of the increasingly lesser amounts that are flowing down from the mountains. Even after the Supreme Court ordered that the Yamuna must be allowed to achieve minimum flow, there still is not enough water except during the monsoon season.

This means that the Delhi portion of the Yamuna contains enough water to move, to achieve minimum flow and flush itself out, only a few months of the year. The majority of the time the poorly treated sewage water that flows into the Yamuna sits stagnant. The river is unable to clean itself because of its very lack of water.

The prospect of guests often makes a host want to clean their home. The same is true for Delhi. The city is preparing for the 2010 Commonwealth Games and is trying to give itself a makeover that was supposed to have included a clean Yamuna. Given that the city at one point had this as a goal, it comes with some surprise that the Commonwealth Games are actually expected to add to the river’s misery rather than inspire any kind of rehabilitation.

Along with the debris from the construction that is ending up in the river, the apartment buildings in which participants will live during the games, Commonwealth Games Village, is being built on the Yamuna floodplain near the already controversial Akshardham temple: Akshardham was the first encroachment on the Yamuna floodplain of the 21st century; the Commonwealth Games Village will be the second.

“The state has an incestuous game plan,” says Manoj Misra, the convener of Yamuna Jiye Abhiyan, a coalition of organisations and individuals that are concerned about the Yamuna’s condition. “On the one hand, they try to do something for the river. On the other, their plans encroach on the floodplain.”

A floodplain defines a river and the surrounding city. Before 1956, all the east bank of the river served as the floodplain. The west bank of the Yamuna rose by several metres above the river and that was where most of Delhi was initially constructed to keep the buildings away from the water. The east side now has several guide bundhs to keep flooding away from buildings, but in a large flood they may not be enough.

Keeping houses and other buildings away from the river is extremely important. Every 10 years, the city suffers a serious flood. They have occurred in 1978, 1988, 1995, 1998 and 2008, and are of a devastating nature.

Yet the Commonwealth Games Village is being built in what has long been considered the Yamuna’s floodplain. On July 29, 2009 the Supreme Court controversially ruled that the area where these apartments, which will be sold to private owners after the games, is not the floodplain. There is a shortage of space in Delhi and the Delhi Development Agency (DDA) has long tried to find a way to build inside the floodplain. According to Misra, with Akshardham and the Commonwealth Games Village, they have now found that way. These structures will lead to further construction inside the floodplain, he says.

This is dangerous. Delhi is in a high earthquake zone and the sand in the floodplain makes it one of the most unstable places for a structure to withstand an earthquake.

Along with the risk of the buildings being destroyed by earthquakes or swept away in floods, Delhi also needs the water that comes from beneath the floodplain. Every monsoon the floodplain is recharged and water is pulled from the ground. The city’s population growth means that the demand for water will only continue to rise and that by concretising and building on the floodplain, Delhi is cutting itself off from a vital source of water.

Misra even went as far as to insist that the building of the Commonwealth Games Village is illegal. The construction is lacking the permission of the Central Ground Water Authority and the Yamuna Standing Committee, the two government bodies that would have had to sign off on the construction for it to be legal. “Definitely the games village is illegal. This is the wrong place for the games village. There were far safer, far cheaper alternatives,” he says. “What is required of this city is to let the floodplain be. All master plans say the floodplain must be preserved.”

This was the crux of the Yamuna debate. For as dirty and polluted as the Yamuna is, the river is not dead yet. Every monsoon the river cleans itself slightly with the added water. If the STPs are brought to an adequate level of operation, the management of the Wazirabad barrage is reorganised, and Delhi’s sewer system is expanded, a slow process that is currently under way, the river still has the potential to clean itself.

But will Delhi allow the river to do that? India’s growth on all fronts is happening very quickly. The population continues to rise. The military is expanding and just launched the country’s first nuclear submarine and has its first foreign base in Tajikistan, near the Afghan border. Economically, the country is still growing despite the global financial crisis and is becoming more and more attractive as a hub for international business.

The country likes where it is going. But it is seemingly disregarding the environmental impact of this growth. This is not simply an issue of emissions. The attitude of Western countries demanding that India cut its emissions when their emissions are higher and proper carbon trading agreements are not in place is arrogant and unfair. India by no means should slow its growth, which is related to the growth of Asia as a whole. How it handles itself domestically during this time is a different matter.

Though it is kept mostly out of sight, the people of Delhi can see the effect of poorly planned industrialisation on the Yamuna. The river is an example of the kind of change in development planning that must quickly be enacted within India. If this does not happen, the country, while still becoming a large power, has the potential to turn into a scattered wasteland, with certainly distinguished, but few, wealthy enclaves.

This certainly is not the fate Indians desire for their country. To avoid too many other natural resources becoming like the Yamuna, environmental experts such as Jha and Misra say quick national action will have to be taken for protection and conservation.

When asked if Delhi has learned anything from the development of cities such as New York and Shanghai, Misra says, “Unfortunately no.”

“A city has to develop within its own context. Within its own climate and scenario. With its own heritage. Here we are not learning from their sad experiences,” he says. “At this juncture, unfortunately the planners in India do not have a mind of their own. They are still stuck with the Western model of development. That is not the model. India must develop its own model of development.”

The thing that appears to sadden him the most, however, is that India does not have this plan for its own development. “The Planning Commission of India has no original mind of its own. All checks and balances have been systematically demolished. A lot of change will actually start from the West. There are institutions and institutions who have started to question their model of development. Climate change is forcing all independent think-tanks to question their philosophies. To question where they have gone wrong. They are coming back to guarding their water properties,” he says.

The faults of their own development are being more and more acknowledged in the West. And India does have the potential to form its own method of development that diverts from methods used in the past. Something that focuses more on the rural countryside to lessen the mass migrations to cities and that promotes the conservation of resources. What will have to happen first, however, is a strong shift in the bureaucracy that has the power to implement those changes.

The Delhi Pollution Control Committee (DPCC) makes its home at Kashmere Gate, on the fourth floor of the bus station, walking distance from the Yamuna.

The chief of the DPCC, Dr. AK Ambasht, is in his office with two engineers. “I want to make clear the DPCC only handles the measuring of the pollution in the river,” he says. “We do not actually implement any plan.”

The chief of the DPCC since January 2009, Dr Ambasht says that the STPs actually do a good job of getting rid of the pollution except for Biochemical Oxygen Demand (BOD) and Total Dissolved Solids (TDS). BOD is how quickly a water body uses up oxygen in the water. TDS are substances that get into the water that cannot be cleansed such as sugars, sulphates and nitrates. But the DPCC saying that the STPs do their job well contradicts the findings of all other organisations.

The DPCC is also in charge of closing plants found to be polluting too much. Dr Ambasht says that he issues 30-40 closure notices a month for various industrial plants and that most quickly lower the pollution levels. But he refuses to give numbers on the STPs he has ordered shut down due to polluting of the Yamuna. Many of the plants that he does order closed simply move to other states. “We don’t care where they are going as long as they are not in Delhi,” he says.

The interview quickly comes to a close. “”We are a regulatory board,” Dr Ambasht says. “I can’t comment on anything else. No one else will speak with you.”

At the Jawaharlal Nehru University, Professor Subramanian PhD looks at a sheet of figures on the Yamuna’s pollution from the DPCC. “These numbers are absurd,” he says. “It’s not a lie. It’s their bureaucratic process. It is not cross checked authentically with scientific method.”

Dr Subramanian shows a sheet of numbers from the Central government that shows the Yamuna to be significantly more polluted than the DPCC studies claim. He explains that the state is interested in showing the Yamuna to be cleaner, but people can simply go and see the river to know how highly polluted it is. “The Central government collects data better,” Dr Subramanian says. “And that is true with all systems within India. The DPCC is not reliable. That is the conclusion you can reach.”

That one of the government bureaus responsible for the Yamuna severely underreports the levels of pollution in the river may not surprise Indians. Their experience with government ineptitude runs deep. But India can no longer afford such laziness when it comes to effectiveness of its system.

The entire approach must change. The energy for this must come from somewhere. Because despite the blackness of the water, when examined, perhaps from one of the many spanning bridges, the curving and meandering Yamuna River, like so much of India’s environment, is sharply beautiful. The pollution that exists within it can be cleaned, with the proper foresight This is something that the rush to develop must not forget.

Written by Justin Vela

August 28, 2009 at 10:04 am

Posted in Enviroment

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Manoj Kumar Misra Discusses Why the Site For the 2010 Commonwealth Games Village Is Illegal

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New Delhi-This morning I met with Manoj Kumar Misra of the Yamuna Jiye Abhiyaan organization. www.peaceinst.org

Mr. Misra is against the building of the 2010 Commonwealth Games Village in its present location in the Yamuna River floodplain, which he believes to be illegal under Delhi law despite the fact that the construction is proceeding at quick pace.

In this video which I have posted on YouTube he explains why.

This is is the first video to be featured on this blog. Soon they will be embedded directly into the blog, but out of a desire to get this up quickly and continue writing I’m simply linking to it. This is six minutes of a half hour interview that I will probably post a few other bits of. The article this interview will contribute to will run in The Caravan magazine in the next few weeks.

Mr. Misra and the organization he represents have taken their fight against the Commonwealth Games Village being built in the floodplain to the Indian Supreme Court. They are currently awaiting a verdict due in October on whether or not the village being built to house participants will be torn down after the games or sold to private owners.

Click here to see the video

Written by Justin Vela

July 25, 2009 at 9:47 am

In New Delhi…Yamuna River Article

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A man washes himself in the highly polluted Yamuna river in New Delhi, India.

A man washes himself in the highly polluted Yamuna river in New Delhi, India.

New Delhi, India-I currently am in New Delhi, India. Contact +91 9650520409

I’m starting this blog after having my website justinvela.com badly hacked after blogging about Tibet while in China. The initial hack occurred last January, but since then I seem to have been added to a list of sites that get routinely hacked and my website and the attached blog are still down.

During my time in China I was near the end of the 24 month journey around the world that I completed during my final years of university and initial foray into journalism. Now, I’m focusing largely on Asia and am currently working on a story for The Caravan, a New Delhi based publication, on the Yamuna river. The Yamuna is one of the most polluted rivers in the world and the article will explore not only how the river came to be so polluted and the various characters that live along its banks, but also how societies allow their natural resources to be destroyed.

A women strings flowers to sell at the market inside her home along the Yamuna River in New Delhi, India.

A women strings flowers to sell at the market inside her home along the Yamuna River in New Delhi, India.

Written by Justin Vela

July 21, 2009 at 7:04 am