Yamuna frothing: What causes froth in the river and why is it dangerous

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November 10, 2021 1:12 PM

The pictures of Chhath devotees standing in toxic foam-laden water to offer prayers is also surfacing on the internet.

yamunaAmid rising criticism over the formation of foam in the Yamuna, the Delhi government on Tuesday deployed 15 boats to remove the froth with the help of ropes (Photo: PTI)

Froth in Yamuna: A layer of froth seen was floating over parts of the Yamuna river on Monday near Kalindi Kunj. The pictures of Chhath devotees standing in toxic foam-laden water to offer prayers is also surfacing on the internet. In this article, we explore causes of frothing in the Yamuna river, why it is dangerous and what has been done so far to clear the mess.

Causes of frothing in the Yamuna?

The froth is nothing but a sign of a polluted river. According to the experts, release of untreated or poorly treated effluents could lead to the frothing. Sewage network and industrial waste also leads to toxic frothing. Giving further explanation, Sushmita Sengupta, Senior Programme Manager of the Water Programme at the Centre for Science and Environment (CSE) said phosphates present in the river causes froth. Surfactants and phosphates found in detergent in households and industrial laundry gets dumped into rivers and all the sewage is not treated, she was quoted as saying to the Indian Express.com.

Giving reason for foaming around this time of the year, Sengupta explained that the river right out is in a lean phase and the water flow is less at this time of the year. Pollutants are therefore not diluted. Except for this, the turbulence at the barrage near Okhla also forms foam from the phosphates, a Delhi Jal Board (DJB) official added.

Yamuna Monitoring Committee, last year in July, had asked the Delhi Pollution Control Committee (DPCC) and the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) to inspect and submit reports on this matter. The report submitted by the CPCB in August last year suggests that the foam formation takes place at two locations–downstream of the ITO and Okhla barrages. The water that falls after discharge from the Okhla barrage stir the foaming agents present in the water.

Who is at a major fault?

Delhi Jal Board has very little to do with the frothing. The frothing is seen only near Kalindi Kunj, downstream of the Okhla barrage, said a senior DJB official. He also added if only Delhi was to be blamed for frothing, it would have been seen across the entire stretch of the river, after the Wazirabad barrage, since drains begin emptying into the river from there.
The officials have also stated that a drain that comes from UP gets dumped into the river near Kalindi Kunj. The drain contains untreated sewage and thus pollutes the river.

As per the Indianexpress.com, Raghav Chadha, Vice-Chairman, DJB on Monday said Okhla barrage comes under the irrigation department of the Uttar Pradesh government. The layer of foam floating in the river near the Okhla barrage is due to the detergents and toxic waste. “Around 155 MGD of water reaches the Okhla barrage with all sorts of waste, industrial discharge, chemicals and detergents. Of this, 105 MGD is released by the Haryana government into the Yamuna through the Najafgarh drain. The remaining 50 MGD is released by the UP government. The water falls from a height, so the untreated waste turns into foam. We have written multiple times to the UP government to treat the water before releasing it, but we keep seeing this,” Chadha was quoted as saying in the Indian Express.

Has anything been done so far?

yes. In June this year, the DPCC banned the sale, storage and transportation of soaps and detergents not meeting the quality standards set by the Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS). The now disbanded Yamuna Monitoring Committee had said that such a ban can be imposed.

Though BIS standards for detergents have been improved, it is still not clear whether these standards have been met eventually, the fifth report of the NGT appointed Yamuna Monitoring Committee from last year noted.Samples have also been collected from the river near Okhla barrage to check phosphate levels, a senior DJB official noted. The DJB, however, does not monitor the levels daily, though samples are taken whenever required, he added.

Delhi govt deploys boats to remove froth

Amid rising criticism over the formation of foam in the Yamuna, the Delhi government on Tuesday deployed 15 boats to remove the froth with the help of ropes. The Delhi Pollution Control Committee (DPCC) is said to conceive the plan and implement it with the help of the Irrigation Flood Control Department and Revenue Department. “Fifteen teams have been deployed to remove the foam in the river. The exercise will continue till the current frothing episode comes to an end,” an official was reported as saying to news agency PTI.

Pictures and video clips of Chhath devotees offering prayers in the Yamuna with foam floating on the surface of the river are going viral on the internet. The frothing had triggered a political slugfest between the ruling AAP and Delhi’s BJP.

The BJP leaders alleged that the AAP government did not allow Chhath celebrations on Yamuna banks to seal the “pathetic” state of the river, while AAP’s Gopal Rai and Raghav Chadha are blaming the Uttar Pradesh and Haryana governments for the frothing in the river.

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