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River Yamuna is one of the most polluted rivers of the India. It originates from Yamunotri glaciers in the lower Himalayas at an elevation of approximately 6387 meters. The barrages formed on the river are playing a major role in escalating the river pollution. River can be divided into five segments on the bases of hydro-logical and ecological conditions. Water quality of only one segment (Himalayan segment) meets the river water quality standards. Normally no water is allowed to flow downstream of the Himalayan segment (Te-jewala barrage) especially in the summer and winter seasons to fulfill the demand of water of the surround-ing area. Whatever water flows in the downstream of the Tajewala barrage is the untreated or partially treated domestic and Industrial wastewater contributed through various drains. The discharge of untreated domestic and industrial effluents have severely affected the quality of Yamuna River and now it falls under the category E, which makes it fit only for recreation and industrial cooling, completely ruling out the possi-bility for underwater life and domestic supply. Almost every year mass death of fishes is reported. Pollution levels in the Yamuna River have risen. Biochemical oxygen demand (BOD) load has increased by 2.5 times between 1980 and 2005: From 117 tonnes per day (TDP) in 1980 to 276 TDP in 2005. The Yamuna has been reduced to a small stream, draining industrial effluents, sewage, dirt and other toxic substances. There is an urgent need to take stringent measures to alleviate these pollution loads and save an ailing river.
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J. Water Resource and Protection, 2010, 2, 489-500
doi:10.4236/jwarp.2010.25056 Published Online May 2010 (
Copyright © 2010 SciRes. JWARP
A River about to Die: Yamuna
Anil Kumar Misra
Department of Civil Engineering, Institute of Technology and Management, Gurgaon, India
Received January 15, 2010; revised March 25, 2010; accepted April 2, 2010
River Yamuna is one of the most polluted rivers of the India. It originates from Yamunotri glaciers in the
lower Himalayas at an elevation of approximately 6387 meters. The barrages formed on the river are playing
a major role in escalating the river pollution. River can be divided into five segments on the bases of hydro-
logical and ecological conditions. Water quality of only one segment (Himalayan segment) meets the river
water quality standards. Normally no water is allowed to flow downstream of the Himalayan segment (Te-
jewala barrage) especially in the summer and winter seasons to fulfill the demand of water of the surround-
ing area. Whatever water flows in the downstream of the Tajewala barrage is the untreated or partially
treated domestic and Industrial wastewater contributed through various drains. The discharge of untreated
domestic and industrial effluents have severely affected the quality of Yamuna River and now it falls under
the category E, which makes it fit only for recreation and industrial cooling, completely ruling out the possi-
bility for underwater life and domestic supply. Almost every year mass death of fishes is reported. Pollution
levels in the Yamuna River have risen. Biochemical oxygen demand (BOD) load has increased by 2.5 times
between 1980 and 2005: From 117 tonnes per day (TDP) in 1980 to 276 TDP in 2005. The Yamuna has been
reduced to a small stream, draining industrial effluents, sewage, dirt and other toxic substances. There is an
urgent need to take stringent measures to alleviate these pollution loads and save an ailing river.
Keywords: Yamuna River, Himalayan Segment, Delhi Segment, Dissolved Oxygen, BOD, COD, Organic
Matter, River Water Quality, India
1. Introduction
River Yamuna is the largest tributary of the Ganga River
in North India. Its total length is around 1370 kilometers.
Yamuna originates from the Yamunotri Glacier of Uttar
Kashi in Uttar Pradesh. River Tons and Giri are the im-
portant tributaries of Yamuna and principle source of
water in mountainous ranges. Yamuna flows through the
states of Delhi, Haryana and Uttar Pradesh, before
merging with the Ganges at Allahabad. World famous
cities like Delhi, Mathura and Agra lie on its banks. On
the basis of hydrological and ecological conditions Ya-
muna has been classified into five segments that are Hi-
malayan Segment, Upper Segment, Delhi Segment, Eu-
triphicated Segment and Diluted Segment [1]. Table 1
and Figure 1 show the area covered under these seg-
ments, while Table 2 shows the state wise land use pat-
tern of the catchment area of river Yamuna. After origin
Yamuna river flows through several valleys for about
200 km in lower Himalayas and emerges into
Indo-Gangetic Plains. In the Himalayan Segment (from
Yamunotri Glacier to Tajewala Barrage) the river water
quality is good and it meets all the standards also. Within
this segment in Hathnikund/Tajewala in Yamuna Nagar
district of Haryana state, river water is diverted into
Eastern Ya-muna Canal (EYC) and Western Yamuna
Canal (WYC). Generally no water is allowed to flow in
the down-stream of the Taje-wala Barrage especially dur-
ing summers and winters to fulfill the water demand of
Table 1. Different segments of the river Yamuna [1].
River Segments Segment Area Approx. Segment
Himalayan Segment From origin to
Tajewala Barrage 172 km
Upper Segment Tajewala Barrage to Wa-
zirabad Barrage 224 km
Delhi Segment Wazirabad Barrage to
Okhla Barrage 22 km
Eutriphicated Segment Okhla Barrage to Chambal
Confluence 490 km
Diluted Segment Chambal Confluence to
Ganga Confluence 468 km
Copyright © 2010 SciRes. JWARP
Figure 1. Shows the different segments of river Yamuna.
the surrounding districts. Due to this the river remains dry
in many areas between Tajewala and Delhi. Whatever
water flows between Tajewala Barrage and Delhi of the
river is the untreated or partially treated domestic and
industrial effluents discharge by several drains. After
crossing a route of 224 km of upper segment Yamuna
enters Delhi. The Yamuna water is again trapped by
Wazirabad barrage for the domestic supply of water to
Delhi. Usually no water or extremely little water is al-
lowed to flow downstream of this barrage during lean
seasons. There is another barrage Okhla barrage 22 km
downstream of Wazirabad barrage this segment is called
Delhi segment and it receives water from seventeen
sewage drains of Delhi, Najafgarh drain. It is considered
as the most polluted segment of Yamuna River. From
this segment Yamuna water is diverted into Agra canal
for irrigation. River water is not allowed to flow down-
stream during summers; beyond the Okhla barrage
whatever water flow in Yamuna River is the domestic
and industrial wastewater generated from east Delhi,
Noida and Sahibabad and joins the river through
Shahdara drain. At the upstream of Mathura Gokul bar-
rage is also decreasing the flow and thereby polluting the
river. Yamuna river after receiving water through other
important tributaries joins the river Ganga and the un-
derground Saraswati at Prayag (Allahabad) after travers-
ing about 950 km [1].
Yamuna River passing through 22 km in Delhi was
once described as the lifeline of the city, but today it has
become one of the dirtiest rivers in the country. According
to the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) the water
quality of Yamuna River falls under the category “E”
which makes it fit only for recreation and industrial
cooling, completely ruling out the possibility for under-
water life [2]. The pollution of the Yamuna River from
domestic discharges from Delhi, Ghaziabad, Noida,
Faridabad, Mathura and Agra has rendered the river unfit
for any use. Yamuna’s water quality in the Himalayan
segment and in the segment after confluence with the
Chambal river is relatively good [3-5]. In Delhi around
3296 MLD (million litres per day) of sewage by virtue of
drains out falling in Yamuna and approximately 3.5 lakh
people live in the 62000 Jhuggis that have come up on the
Yamuna river bed and its embankment [6]. Because of the
Table 2. State wise land use pattern of river Yamuna catchment area (source: comprehensive plan of flood control for ganga
sub-basin and tributary river system, ganga flood control committee, ministry of water resources, government of India).
Land use pattern
Area (% of
catchment) Non-arable
land %
Forest Land
Land %
cultivated %
Land under
use %
Himachal Pradesh 1.6 25.0 59.4 15.6 14.2 1.5
Haryana 6.1 18.1 2.4 79.5 59.9 3.6
NCT-Delhi 0.4 51.0 1.0 48.0 46.5 43.7
Uttaranchal 1.1 5.0 22.0 23.0 14.3 1.6
Uttar Pradesh 20.4 14.5 3.9 81.1 68.0 5.1
Rajasthan 29.8 40.8 8.8 50.4 43.9 2.2
Madhya Pradesh 40.6 26.0 18.0 56 50.7 1.8
Total 100.0 27.5 12.5 60.0 51.9 2.9
Copyright © 2010 SciRes. JWARP
low flow (due to different barrages) and huge quantity of
waste it receives the Yamuna river within the limits of
the city have been given the dubious distinction of being
one of the worst polluted rivers of the country by the
Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB). According to
the latest status of water quality in India (2007) released
by CPCB the Yamuna water quality at Okhla and Niza-
mudin bridges has been described as the worst affected.
As per data on water quality of water bodies and
groundwater locations; it was placed seventh on the list
of rivers with highest Biochemical Oxygen Demand
(BOD), one of the most important indicators of pollution.
The total biochemical oxygen demand content in the
Yamuna was 93 mg/L, while the permissible level is
3 mg/L. The CPCB report says that the level of Dis-
solved Oxygen throughout the year in Yamuna was less
than 4 mg/L and it was 0.0 mg/L at few locations
down-stream of urban settlements due to discharge of
untreated and partially treated wastewater. The water
quality of Yamuna has deteriorated at Paonta Sahib,
Kalanaur, Sonepat, Palla, Nizammudin, Okhla, Mazawali,
Mathura, Agra, Bateshwar, Etawah, Juhika and Allaha-
bad the western Yamuna canal downstream of Yamuna
Nagar at Damla is “ grossly polluted due to municipal
and industrial waste water disposal”.
The Yamuna is widely worshipped by devotees in In-
dia. A few centuries ago it prompted the Mughals to
build one of their most magnificent monuments; the Taj
Mahal on its bank; but today it has been reduced to a
pale and stinking drain. About 57 million people depend
on Yamuna River water. With an annual flow of about
10,000 cubic metres (cum) and usage of 4,400 cum (of
which irrigation constitutes 96 percent), the river ac-
counts for more than 70 percent of Delhi’s water supplies.
Available water treatment facilities are not capable of
removing the pesticide traces. Waterworks laboratories
cannot even detect them. Worse, Yamuna leaves Delhi as
a sewer, laden with the city’s biological and chemical
wastes. Downstream, at Mathura and Agra, this becomes
the main municipal drinking water source. Here, too,
existing treatment facilities are not capable of detecting
pollutants contained by river water. Thus, consumers in
Mathura and Agra ingest unknown amounts of toxic pes-
ticide residues each time they drink water. In Agra and
Matura districts, the domestic and industrial users pro-
duce large quantities of waste products and the water-
ways provide a cheap and effective way of disposing
them. Apart from that, water is discharged in Yamuna
from Gokul barrage and Keetham Lake, 28 km upstream
from Agra. Mathura refinery lifts raw water directly from
Mathura canal, which acts as a feeder source for
Keetham Lake. The water, which is released from the
refinery, also seems to pollute Yamuna. During dry
weather, the flow of Yamuna River consists almost en-
tirely of effluents. The degree of pollution of Yamuna
can be assed from an incident recounted below.
On 13th June 2002, thousands of dead and dying fishes
were found strewn over the Sikendra Taj Mahal area
along the water body. Reports of more fish deaths poured
in from Bateshwar, about 78 km from Poiya Ghat in
Agra (Figure 2). Such incidents are common; almost
every year mass death of fishes is reported in Yamuna
River [7]. Approximately 75 percent of precipitation in
Yamuna basin occurs during the four monsoon months
of June, July, August and September. This affects the
river flow as well as the river water quality up to some
The demand of fresh water has been continuously in-
creasing with growing population and increase in agricul-
tural and industrial activities. Majority of the demand of
water of Delhi, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh and Madhya
Pradesh states is met by Yamuna, which has already be-
come a sewerage drain. This paper aims to discuss the
most prominent reasons of Yamuna river pollution and
easily feasible and economically feasible measures to pre-
vent further pollution and improve the river water quality.
Figure 2. Shows the sites of maximum pollution and mass
death of fishes reported in Agra and Mathura districts [7].
Copyright © 2010 SciRes. JWARP
2. Yamuna Water Quality Status
2.1. Yamuna Water Quality Status at Different
River water quality can be assessed by the analysis of
nutrients, chemistry, and biology. The criteria for a
healthy river are that it should contain at least 5 mg/L of
Dissolved Oxygen (vital for the survival of marine life)
and about 3 mg/L of Biochemical Oxygen Demand.
Further the Pathogens (disease causing bacteria’s)
represented by the Faecal Coliforms counts should not
exceed 500 per 100 mL of water. India River water
qualities have been categories in five classes (http:// that are
Class A: The River water is fit for drinking after proper
disinfection with the addition of chlorine or bleaching
powder. Class B: Under this category the river water is
fit only for bathing. Class C: The River water is fit for
drinking only after proper treatment (screening to re-
move physical matters or particulate such as paper, plas-
tic, etc. Class D: Under this class the river water is fit
only for fish and wildlife and Class E: River water is
suitable only for industrial cooling, irrigation, etc. Ya-
muna River belongs to class E [2].
Since 1975, there had been rapid urbanization, Indu-
strialization and agricultural development in Yamuna
basin, which have directly or indirectly affected the
Yamuna water quality. Yamuna water quality is also
affected by the six barrages in the river. Table 3 shows
the diversion of Yamuna Water at various places all
along its length. These barrages blocked the flow of the
river and formed the lotic (flowing) environment.
Generally most of the sludge get deposited at upstream
of the barrages. This settled polluted materials moves to
downstream along with sudden release of water from the
barrages and increases the river pollution.
Water quality monitoring and analysis of Yamuna
River is regularly carried out by Central Pollution
Control Board (CPCB) since 1977. As per the report of
CPCB, 2006 different water quality parameters of
Yamuna river are as follows.
2.2. Biological Oxygen Demand (BOD)
It measures the rate of oxygen used by biological organ-
isms in the water body to decompose the organic matter
polluted by sewerage or industrial effluents. High demand
of BOD indicates that the level of dissolved oxygen is
falling, and river’s marine life and biodiversity is in dan-
ger. It is caused by the presence of high level of organic
pollutants and nitrate in water body. The BOD level in
Yamuna from Yamunotri (origin) to Palla (Place between
Sonipat and Nizamuddin Bridge) in Delhi is usually
ranges from 1 to 3 mg/L. Up to Palla Yamuna is full of
marine life, but beyond that wastewater drains outfall in
Yamuna started. From Nizamuddin Bridge to Agra down-
stream the BOD level ranges from 3 to 51 mg/L. The
BOD level was also found above the permissible limits in
Mathura, Agra, Etawah and Juhika. Figure 3 shows the
average BOD levels in Yamuna River at different loca-
2.3. Chemical Oxygen Demand (COD)
COD beyond the permissible limit is the indicator of the
organic and inorganic pollutants in the water body. The
COD level in Yamuna ranges from 1 to 50 mg/L from its
origin to Palla. Beyond Palla Yamuna River starts re-
ceiving large amount of wastewaters from different drain
within Delhi and many downstream locations. The COD
level start increasing from Nizamuddin Bridge and found
above the permissible limits (ranges from 3 to 155 mg/L)
up to Juhika.
2.4. Dissolved Oxygen (DO)
DO level in Yamuna from its origin to Palla is found
normal, but beyond that it started decreasing. After Wa-
zirabad the DO level starts decreasing drastically and
Table 3. Diversion of Yamuna River water ([8] EYC (eastern Yamuna canal) WYC (western Yamuna canal).
Site Structure State Purpose State of River
Dak Patthar Barrage Uttranchal Power Generation Water diverted into canal
Asan Barrage Uttranchal Power Generation Water diverted into canal
Hathnikund Barrage Uttar Pradesh/Haryana Irrigation and drinking water
Water diverted into WYC and
EYC (No water flow down-
stream in dry season)
Wazirabad Barrage Delhi Drinking water Generally no water flow
downstream in dry season
ITO bridge Barrage Delhi Water supply to power plant Water available mainly from
Okhla Barrage Delhi/Uttar Pradesh Water supply into Agra canal Generally no water flow
downstream in dry season
A. K. MISRA 493
Figure 3. Average dissolved oxygen in Yamuna River [9].
majority of times the DO level was found nil at Delhi
downstream locations; it may be attributed to Shahdara
drain and Hindon River which discharge wastewater at
these locations. Further the DO levels at locations in
Mathura, Agra, Etawah and Juhika were found beyond
the permissible limits. Figure 4 shows the average DO
levels in Yamuna River at different locations.
The ammonia values in the entire Yamuna stretch
were found varying from nil to 44 mg/L in 1999 to 2005.
Study of heavy metals at Palla and some of the impact
locations such as Nizamuddin Bridge, Agra Canal,
Mathura downstream and Agra downstream shows the
presence of Cadmium, Nickel, Iron, Zinc and Chromium
in Yamuna River. The maximum concentration of chro-
mium 7.91 mg/L was found in January 2001, at Agra
downstream, while the maximum concentration of Iron
and Zinc was found 78.3 mg/L (Nizamuddin Bridge) and
1.37 mg/L (Palla) in July 2001 and June 2003 respec-
tively. Apart from the heavy metals the presence of pes-
ticides in Yamuna is also common. The pesticides like
BHC (benzene hexa chloride), Dieldrin, Aldrin, Endo-
sulfan and DDT were found in Yamuna river water at
various locations. The maximum concentration of BHC
(5517.79 µg/L) was observed at Agra downstream in
September 2005. Whereas the maximum concentration
of Aldrin (213.41 µg/L, December 2001), Dieldrin
(50.85 µg/L, March 2005) and Endosulfan (4591.08 µg/L,
June 2002) was observed at Nizamuddin bridge and
Mathura downstream respectively [9]. The sources of
pesticides in the Yamuna seem to be agriculture activi-
ties common in the river catchment area as well as also
along the bank of the river.
Almost every year mass death of fishes is reported
from these locations and right now the situation is that
rarely the existence of fishes is reported in Yamuna
River between Delhi to Agra. The water quality status of
some of the important parameters is shown in Tables 4
and 5.
3. Different Sources of Pollution in the
Yamuna River
Approximately 75 percent of urban waste in India ends
up in the country’s rivers, and unchecked urban growth
across the country combined with poor government
oversight means the problem is only getting worse. This
situation has arisen despite the huge investments made
by subsequent governments in cleaning them up. As a
result, our survival and that of rivers is at stake. Accord-
ing to the Centre for Science and Environment, approxi-
mately 75 to 80 percent of the river’s pollution is the
result of raw sewage, industrial runoff and the garbage
thrown into the river and it totals over 3 billion liters of
waste per day. About 20 billion rupees, or almost US
500 million, has been spent on various cleanup efforts. $
Copyright © 2010 SciRes. JWARP
Copyright © 2010 SciRes. JWARP
Figure 4. Average biochemical oxygen in Yamuna River [9].
Table 4. Water quality ranges of some of the parameters in Yamuna River [9].
Minimum Maximum
No. Parameters Value
(mg/L) Location Year
(mg/L) Location Year
1 TDS 83 Hathnikund 2000 1357 Etawah 2000
2 Chloride 2
Sonepat, Kalanaur 2001 424 Agra d/s (1/2) 2005
3 Sulphate 7 Etawah 2005 217 Nizamuddin bridge 1999
4 Sodium 6
2001, 2003,
2004 406 Agra d/s (1/4) 2004
5 Calcium 7 Kalanapur 2001 291 Agra d/s (1/2) 2005
6 Magnesium 0.4 Sonepat 2004 77 Agra canal (1/2) 2004
7 Total hardness 46 Hathnikund 2005 792 Agra u/s 2005
8 Alkalinity 40 Hathnikund 2000 425 Mazawali
9 Phosphate 0.02 Palla 2005 2.00 Mathura u/s 2004
10 Potassium 1.0 Hathnikund 2000 48 Agra D/s 1999
The pollution in the Yamuna River is continuously es-
calating and the river water is unfit for any use. There are
serious water quality problems in the, cities, towns and
villages using Yamuna rivers as a source of their water
and the Yamuna is under serious threat from unprece-
dented escalation in urbanization and industrialization.
The major sources of pollution in Yamuna river are:-
3.1. Industrial Effluents
Yamuna River is also called mailee (dirty) river and river
f sorrow to Delhi, Mathura and Agra. The River water o
Copyright © 2010 SciRes. JWARP
Table 5. Scenario of water quality status of Yamuna River [10].
Sewage Generated Total Sewage Sewage Treated Remarks
Daily Sewage Generated in Delhi 2871 million litres 1478 litres
Remaining sewage goes
into the Yamuna
through the 17 drain
TDS Quantity Permissible Limits Remarks
Content of Suspended Solids in Yamuna 1000-10,000 mg/L 100 mg/L
BOD Quantity Permissible Limits Remarks
Biochemical Oxygen Demand (BOD) 15-30 mg/L 3 mg/L
Coliform Level Quantity Permissible Limits Remarks
Coliform Level in Yamuna 11.8 Crore per 100 ml of
5000 per 100 ml of
Coliforms causes many
serious disesses relating
to the digestive system
Dissolved Oxygen Quantity Normal Oxygen Level Remarks
Dissolved Oxygen Level 0 mg/L 4 mg/L
The dissolved oxygen
level is critically impor-
tant for water plants and
Requirement of Drinking Water Total Requirement Available Drinking
Water Remarks
Delhi’s Drinking Water Requirement 1480 cusecs 1221 cusecs
Forest Cover Existing Forest Cover Required Forest Cover Remark
Delhi’s Forest Cover 10.2% of total area 33% of the total area
Air Pollution RSPM levels 3 times higher than normal, CO levels are twice the permissible
is extremely black, it appears like an industrial drain in
Delhi, as majority of the industries are on its bank and
used to dump the untreated effluents into the river. The
water in the Yamuna remains stagnant for approximately
nine months in a year. There are unlimited numbers of
industrial units, draining immense amount of untreated
water in Yamuna existing in Delhi, Faridabad, Mathura
and Agra. Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) had
estimated that there were approximately 359 industrial
units, which directly or indirectly discharge their effluents
in Yamuna. A report of CPCB [8] indicates that there
were about 42 industrial units in Delhi directly polluting
the Yamuna.
3.2. Domestic Waste Water
Yamuna is considered one of the most polluted rivers of
the world especially around the Delhi, because of the
large amount of the wastewater discharge. According to
a Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) survey, Delhi
contributes 23 percent of the total wastewater generated
by Class I cities (cities with more than 100,000 people).
More shockingly, this is 47 per cent of the waste
generated by 101 Class I cities and 122 Class II cities
(Population: 50,000-99,999) in the Ganga basin. The
untreated domestic wastewater is dumped in the Yamuna,
which has ammonia in it, increases its concentration. The
water becomes untreatable when the ammonia concen-
tration reaches to 0.4 mg/L or more. In Delhi often
ammonia in Yamuna River has been found more than
0.4 mg/L especially during summer. The river has turned
grossly polluted due to continuous discharge of domestic
wastewater from Palla to Etawah.
3.3. Pollution from Agriculture
The agriculture is also one of the main sources of con-
tamination in the Yamuna River, which directly or indi-
rectly affects river water quality through, ground and
surface water runoff of agricultural land through mon-
soon and non-monsoon precipitation and seepage of irri-
gation water, which is composed of artificial fertilizer
residues, insecticides, herbicides, pesticides and farm-
yard waste. Agriculture is very common in the catchment
areas as well as all along the bank of the Yamuna River.
Usually in the non-monsoon time majority of the river
streams shrinks and their catchment areas are used for
farming and thus directly contributing pesticides residue
in the river.
3.4. Solid Wastes
Solid wastes are the unwanted and discarded products in
the solid states, their proper management are necessary.
Copyright © 2010 SciRes. JWARP
Dumping of solid waste and garbage is one of the major
problems in Yamuna River. As per the report of Yamuna
Action Plan the content of suspended solids in Yamuna
is 1000-10,000 mg/L and the permissible content of sus-
pended solids is 100 mg/L. The main reason behind this
is the high density of the population living in the city and
the dumping of untreated water and solid waste into the
river. Solid waste are generally composed of human fecal
matter, cow dung, generated from various authorized and
unauthorized dairy colonies located in Sonepat, Panipat,
Delhi, Noida, Mathura, Agra and Etawah are being dis-
charged untreated into river Yamuna and are considered
as one of the major non-point source of pollution.
3.5. Other Sources
There are many other reasons of pollution of Yamuna
river water, such as on holy and religious occasions
every year, thousands of peoples take a dip in the Ya-
muna and leave behind worship materials, polythene
bags, clay idols, human excreta, account books and floral
offerings in the river water, which increases the sus-
pended materials in the water. The superstitious mindset
of the peoples has contributed and still contributing and
escalating the Yamuna River Pollution. Further large
number of cities and small towns are located all along
the Yamuna River. Majority of these small cities and
towns do not have the sanitation facilities. Thus the most
of the peoples uses river catchment areas for defecation,
which causes pathogenic and organic contamination in
the river. Peoples have the habit of dumping unburnt
bodies of human beings and animals into the river. Ac-
cording to superstition, bodies of those who die from
certain diseases (asthma, tuberculosis, leprosy, snake bite,
poisoning etc.) and those of newborn babies, unmarried
persons and holy men are consigned to the river. But
poor people were also dumping bodies into the rivers to
save on costly wood cremation.
4. Policies and Strategies to Improve
Yamuna Water Quality
Majority of rivers of India are facing acute water pollu-
tion problems and river Yamuna is one of them. Due to
excessive industrialization and urbanization of river
Yamuna especially in Delhi, Mathura and Agra have
now become a drain. The water pollution of the river has
gained large heights. Now it is become imperative to,
yield a plan identifying viable remedial options and
strategies for the Yamuna River clean up. Efforts will be
made to resort to a bottom-up approach rather than a
top-down one to help this highly polluted river, which is
the major life-supporting artery of Delhi, Mathura, Agra
and Etawah and many other cities in India. To apply the
strategies effectively, we need to develop awareness
among masses, education, and improved watershed
management that will improve the water quality of this
holy river. Some of the important measures that can be
very effective in improving Yamuna water quality status
are as follows.
4.1. Proper Management and Treatment of
Waste water discharges in rivers destroy marine lives;
degrade the environment, and causes water shortage and
waterborne diseases. Their proper management and
treatment is necessary because it reduces or removes the
organic matter, solids, nutrients, disease-causing organ-
isms and other pollutants from the wastewater before it is
discharged to river water. Delhi alone contributes around
3,296 MLD of sewage water in Yamuna River. There-
fore it is imperative to take necessary action and pro-
motes the following strategies.
4.1.1. Conserve Water and Use It Effectively
Now day’s both urban and rural areas, are facing the
problems of water shortage and majority of the urban
areas are depend upon the river water for the domestic
supplies. Due to severe pollution river water requires
high grade treatment prior to use for domestic purposes,
which is expensive and not easily feasible. Therefore the
conservation of water is necessary. Usually the construc
tion of houses, footpaths and roads has left little exposed
earth for water infiltration and recharge of groundwater
aquifers. In the rural and urban areas the floodwater
quickly flows to the nallas (drain) and rivers, which then
dry up soon after the rains stop. If this water can be held
back, it can seep into the ground and recharge the
groundwater bodies.
4.1.2. Promote Wastewater Treatment & Technologies
Works on the development of effective and easily feasible
and economically feasible wastewater treatment tech-
niques should be supported by the government. Encour-
age people in social gathering to reduce wastewater gen-
eration and use low cost and low maintenance wastewa-
ter treatment techniques at the common collection points.
4.1.3. Drainage Water Management and Treatment
The drainage water management relies on the natural
rainfall. It can be done by forming water control struc-
ture in the main, sub main or lateral drain such as differ-
ent kinds of check dams. These structures control the
surface runoff and ensure the maximum infiltration of
drainage water and recharge the water table. Apart from
that within the drainage canal or drain route artificial
filters based on grain size sedimentation can be formed
they are very effective in water treatment.
A. K. MISRA 497
4.1.4. Recycling and Reuse of Wastewater
Now day’s wastewater can be recycled through effective
technologies and it can be reused for different purposes
such as agricultural and landscape irrigation, industrial
processes, toilet flushing, and recharge a ground water
basin. Wastewater can be recycled and reused onsite; for
example, an industrial can recycles water it used for
cooling processes. Likewise the municipal wastewater
and sewage water can also be recycled and can be used
for industrial purposes.
4.1.5. Financing Wastewater Management Schemes
There are number of Government, semi-government,
NGO’s, private companies and environmental agencies
are available which are working in the field of wastewa-
ter management. These organizations should be encour-
aged to work on the waste management techniques and
can be financed through projects, schemes.
4.1.6. Improving the Sewerage System
The status of sewerage systems especially in the cities,
towns and blocks all along the Yamuna River course is
extremely bed, due to this large quantity of untreated or
partially treated sewage water mixed with river water.
Further many cities, small towns and blocks do not have
the sewer system facilities. The existing sewer system
improvement and formation are needed to reduce the risk
of seepage of sewerage water and material into the
groundwater and river, especially during rainy seasons.
4.1.7. Upgrading of Sewage Treatment Plant
The old, inadequate sewer systems are one of the major
causes of water pollution in Yamuna. Now it’s become
imperative to upgrade all the existing sewerage treatment
plants and increase their capacity. The areas without
sewer system need immediate action as most of the
wastewater and waste is directly dumped in river water
or ground.
4.1.8. Proper Disposal of Sewage
Disposal of sewage effluents are big problems almost in
every big city. It cannot be simply disposed off due to
their microbiological and chemical characteristics. Only
after full treatment they can be discharged into river. But
alone in Delhi approximately 1393 million liters of un-
treated sewage is disposed in Yamuna. Even the partially
treated sewage effluents are not fully suitable for the
discharge in river. More sewerage treatment plants
should be formed immediately to prevent the water pol-
lution in Yamuna River and discharge of untreated sew-
age should be banned.
4.2. Agricultural Practices Improvement
Farmers are using large quantities of chemical fertilizer,
insecticides, pesticides, to increase short term crop yields
or keeping the soil productive, without knowing the
exact quantities are required. It is estimated that about
one half of every metric ton of fertilizer or pesticides
applied to fields never even makes it into plant tissue, but
instead ends up evaporating or being washed into local
waterways. The excess amount of fertilizer use entered
the soil, ground and surface water bodies and pollutes
them and during rainy season by runoff it pollutes the
lakes, ponds and rivers and causes eutrophication, which
decreases the dissolved oxygen level and threatens
animal and plant health. To prevent such situation
emphasis should be given on the use of bio-fertilizers
having least chemical constituents and accelerate the
efforts to prevent the soil erosion through vegetation
cover especially along the either side areas of river.
4.3. Environmental Management
River environmental management depend on interactions
between river, environment and human infrastructure,
including the interactions between ecology, hydrology,
water quality, climate, flooding, public sanitary facilities,
waste water inputs and waste water treatment facilities.
Thus a river directly as well as indirectly reflects the
environmental management system facilities of any town,
city, state and country. To protect Yamuna River from
the pollutants some of the important steps should be
taken immediately such as.
4.3.1. Solid Waste Management
Almost all the cities situated on the either sides of Ya-
muna River have been experiencing very high population
growth and urbanization. This has increased the urban
environmental problems, such as solid waste manage-
ment. Most of the cities do not have adequate solid waste
management system and it causes heavy pollution to
Yamuna River. Further the quantity of solid waste
generated has increased significantly and its characteris-
tics have changed as a result of the change in peoples’
lifestyles due to swift urbanization. Every day the river is
polluted by solid waste disposal, animal bathing, disposal
of dead bodies, slums along the river and cattle wallow-
Solid waste disposal of normal solid or semisolid ma-
terials, resulting from human and animal activities, that
are useless, unwanted, or hazardous can be recycled and
reused in daily lives. Once cleaned and separated, the
recyclables solid wastes can be converted into products
from total or partial recycled materials. Common
household items, such as newspapers, paper towels,
aluminum, plastic, and glass soft drink containers; steel
cans; and plastic laundry detergent bottles can be formed
from totally or partially recycled solid wastes. Further
recycled materials can also be used in innovative
Copyright © 2010 SciRes. JWARP
Copyright © 2010 SciRes. JWARP
applications such as recovered glass in roadway asphalt
(glassphalt) or recovered plastic in carpeting, park ben-
ches, and pedestrian bridges. The cities like Sonepat, Pa-
nipat, Delhi, Noida Mathura, Agra and Etawah pro-duce
large amount of solid waste and plays a major role in
polluting the Yamuna. If more and more recycled plants
are formed in these cities then problem related with solid
waste disposal can be effectively controlled.
4.3.2. Formation of Public Toilets
Approximately 30 to 40% of urban population in major
cities like Delhi, Agra, Mathura and Etawah stays in
slums without sanitation facilities. People in these areas
generally have the practice of open defecation and dis-
charge of sewage in the Yamuna river catchment area
due to this the water quality of the river is continuously
deteriorating. Water contaminated with faecal matter
causes diarrhoea (with proper sanitation, the risk level
can drop by 40 percent); malnutrition, anaemia or re-
tarded growth, blindness, schistosomiasis, and cholera
and are very common disease of the slum areas in Delhi,
Mathura and Agra. The formation of public sanitation
facilities especially in the slum areas situated near either
sides of the river is the best solution to prevent further
4.3.3. Formation of Electric Crematorium and Create
Cremation in Yamuna River and on its banks is also one
of the reasons of river water pollution. Every day ap-
proximately 100 to 150 cremations are performed, most
on wood pyres that do not completely consume the body.
Along with the remains of these traditional funerals there
are thousand more who cannot afford cremation and
whose bodies are simply thrown into the Yamuna. Fur-
ther the carcasses of thousands of dead cattle, which are
scared to Hindus go into the river each year. The absence
of adequate cremation facilities are contributing to large
number of partially unbrunt corpses floating down the
Formation of electric cremation is the only solution of
these problems. Muslims and Christians according to
their rituals buried the body in the graveyard, whereas,
Hindus and Sikhs burn up the cadaver and in the case of
children’s death body is surged into river. Both central
and state government should accelerate it affords to
guide, aware and convince people to use electric crema-
tion for the antim sanskara (last rites) instead of wood.
It’s not only environment friendly but also least expen-
4.4. Formation of Holy Bathing Ponds
In India people (Hindus) bathe in rivers due to religious
convictions and beliefs and dump holy materials and
related materials along with domestic solid waste in riv-
ers. River Yamuna is among one of the holiest rivers in
India and people frequently take mass bath in the river.
Water quality is severely affected by mass bathing. Dete-
rioration of river water quality may injure health of the
people taking the dip and also the population down-
stream which use the river as a source of water for
drinking and bathing purposes.
This problem can be solved by the formation of holy
bathing ponds, near the ghats filled with river water
along with artificial ground water recharge techniques.
This will not only prevent river pollution but also re-
charge the groundwater resources.
5. Afforestation
Afforestation plays an important role in reducing the soil
erosion and agricultural runoff. Afforestation along the
either sides of Yamuna river banks would help in con-
trolling the agricultural runoff, which is composed of
fertilizers and pesticides. Further afforestation along the
Yamuna River can also reduce the rise in river water
temperature by preventing the direct exposure of river
water with sunlight. This will also oxygenate the river
6. Canal Formation
Majority of the rural and some urban areas do not have
the sewer systems in Delhi, Agra, Mathura and Etawah
districts. Therefore the sewerage wastes and other do-
mestic wastes flow directly to the Yamuna River through
the open drains. Such wastes not only pollute the river
but also pollute the surface and groundwater resources.
This should be ban at any cost and a barrier between the
river and cities/towns should be formed. Canals should
be formed parallel to the river for carrying all the towns
domestic and sewerage waste to 7 to 10 km downstream
of the town or city and dumped to the river after treat-
ment. This will not only prevent the Yamuna pollution
but also help in solving the drinking water problems in
Delhi, Mathura and Agra.
7. Legislation and Fines
Now it’s become necessary to form strict rules and regu-
lations and ensure their 100 percent implementation to
control the escalating pollution in Yamuna River. Moni-
toring at the major pollution sites of the river should be
started immediately. Dumping of domestic wastes and
other polluting materials in river should be banned and
fine and imprisonment of 6 months to 1 year should be
imposed based on the self purifying abilities and waste
assimilation capacities of a river, the effluent standards
A. K. MISRA 499
should be worked out separately for each of the various
polluters [11].
8. Awareness among the People
Prevention of Yamuna river pollution cannot be achieved
without people’s participation. Therefore it’s important
to create awareness among the people regarding the way
river pollution is occurring and its related consequences.
People should be taught various means to be adopted to
reduce the increasing pollution levels in the river. In
Delhi, state government has formed 10 feet high wire
barricades along all Yamuna bridge under the Yamuna
Action Plan I with signboard messages to prevent people
from tossing things into the Yamuna. Despite that almost
everyday people throw flowers and religious materials in
the river, which creates pollution. Help of different vol-
unteer organizations and NGO’s should be taken to
launch campaign and create awareness. Print media and
electronic media can play a major role in creating
awareness and urging people not to throw garbage and
other pollutants in rivers.
9. Discussion and Conclusions
Yamuna which acts as the life line for the majority of the
cities like Yamuna Nagar (Haryana), Panipat, Sonipat,
Delhi, Noida , Faridabad, Mathura and Agra plays a ma-
jor role in polluting the river. Yamuna river flow is re-
stricted through several barrages such as Tajewala bar-
rage, Wazirabad Barrage, Okhla Barrage, Gokul barrage
etc. These barrages are directly or indirectly affecting the
river water quality and aquatic ecosystem. Sludges which
contain inorganic, organic and other toxic matters usu-
ally get deposited at the upstream of the barrages and
their sudden release in the downstream of the river water
increases pollution level so high that led to the mass
death of fishes especially Delhi and Eutriphicated seg-
ment frequently.
Yamuna river enters Delhi near the Palla village 15 km
upstream of Wazirabad barrage, which acts as a reservoir
for Delhi. Delhi generates approximately 2871 MLD of
sewage, against an installed sewage treatment capacity of
1,478 MLD. Thus, about 1,393 MLD of untreated and a
significant amount of partially treated sewage enter the
river every day [12]. The Delhi sewage system can be
blamed for it and steps should be taken from not putting
the industrial waste into the river as most of the industries
are on the banks of Yamuna. In Delhi river water is black
and it hardly flows. Now it’s become imperative to maxi-
mize the use of the existing treatment facilities and ensure
the reuse of treated effluents. All waste, legal and illegal,
sewered and unsewered must be trapped and treated and
not mixed with untreated sewage. Centralized sewage
treatment plants cannot be considered as good because
the cost of transporting waste to the treatment facility and
transporting treated effluent back to the point of reuse
makes them too expensive to run. Therefore, treatment
facilities need to be constructed close to the source of
sewage generation. Catchment area delineation is also an
important component of water quality management. In
order to reduce pollutant loadings at an outfall, it is neces-
sary to examine and improve water use practices in the
areas where pollutants originate. Further the raw sewage
must be treated before it is discharged into the river
Large agricultural fields, of Uttaranchal, Haryana,
Uttar Pradesh, and Madhya Pradesh significantly con-
tribute to river pollution. If river catchment area is pro-
tected from the chemical contamination the river pollu-
tion related with irrigation can be minimized. This can
only be done by switching to organic or biological farm-
ing methods and curtailing the use of pesticides and fer-
Several water treatment technologies prevailing in
West are very expensive and country like India cannot
afford it. Besides, that the conventional water treatment
processes, based on chemical coagulation and filtration
or biological slow sand filtration, have little capacity to
remove water-soluble pesticides. Therefore emphasis
should be given to the easily feasible and economically
feasible techniques capable of removing or minimizing
the pesticides content from the water.
The quality restoration of any river, especially of the
Yamuna at different locations, is a very complex and
interdisciplinary endeavor. Yamuna River pollution
cannot be minimized merely by diverting the routes of
different drains carrying wastewaters and/or establishing
sewage treatment plants. The required strategy for pollu-
tion control should not only be a multi-line approach but
also be fool proof. The various sources of pollution in the
Yamuna river and possible strategies to restore this ailing
river to its pristine status must be thoroughly examined
and effective and enduring solutions established and im-
10. Acknowledgements
I thank all the faculty members of the Civil Engineering
Department, of Institute of Technology and Management
(ITM) for providing working facilities and also for con-
tinuous encouragement.
1. References
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Copyright © 2010 SciRes. JWARP
Copyright © 2010 SciRes. JWARP
[3] D. S. Bhargava, “Most rapid BOD Assimilation in Ganga
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[6] “Yamuna Action Plan,” 1993.
[7] P. Verma, “The Mystery of Large-Scale Fish Fatalities in
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... Many economically and culturally significant cities such as Agra, Mathura, Delhi, and Sonipat lie on the banks of the river Yamuna. The entire river Yamuna is divided into five segments based on hydrological conditions: Himalayan, Upper, Delhi, Eutrophic, and Diluted segments (Misra, 2010). However, rapid urbanization and industrialization near the banks of the river Yamuna in the last few decades have led to the degradation of the surface water quality of the river (CPCB, 2006; Gupta et al., 2021;Gupta and Gupta 2022;Sharma et al., 2017). ...
... Many types of industries flourishing in urban cities such as Sonipat, Delhi, Ghaziabad, Mathura, and Agra contribute to 85% of the total pollution load in the river Yamuna (Manju and Smita, 2013;Sharma and Chhabra, 2015). The discharge of untreated or partially treated industrial and domestic wastewater is considered to be the main cause of river water quality deterioration (CPCB, 2003;Misra, 2010 Kaur et al. (2021) in the River Yamuna in Panipat and adjacent cities found low water quality after meeting with Panipat drain. Untreated wastewater joining the river Yamuna at various segments of Delhi has been degrading the health of the riverine ecosystem (Parida et al., 2022). ...
Yamuna River is vital to the people of Delhi, but industrial and urban growth in the area has led to challenges in treating wastewater from domestic and industrial sources. As a result, the condition of the river has degraded significantly in recent decades. The government has implemented several measures, such as the Yamuna Action Plan, to restore the water quality of the river. Keeping all the facts under consideration, in 2022, water quality parameters i.e., Dissolved Oxygen (DO), pH, Chemical Oxygen Demand (COD), Biological Oxygen Demand (BOD), and Fecal Coliform (FC) were analyzed at 8 stations along the Delhi stretch and compared to Indian and international standards. Only one station met the criteria, while most stations were heavily polluted with inorganic and organic waste. Sewage and effluent treatment plants in the area have not been effective in completely treating the waste, resulting in the discharge of partially treated water into the river.
... The two tributaries of the Ganges sampled in the middle section (the Yamuna (Station 18) and the Ramganga (Station 10)) showed the highest ionic loads among all the tributaries (Figure 2a-g, Table S1). Among these, the Yamuna was previously reported as a highly polluted river that deteriorates the water quality of the Ganges downstream of its confluence [39][40][41]. The EC in the Yamuna was also the highest among all the sampling stations (Table 1), suggesting the external supply of ions to the mainstream Ganges through the Yamuna, making it a potential inorganic load source for the Ganges. ...
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Identification of sources and transport pathways of heavy metals and major ions is crucial for effective water quality monitoring, particularly in large river systems. The Ganges river basin, the largest and the most populous river basin in India, remains poorly studied in this regard. We conducted a basin-level analysis of major ions, heavy metals, and stable isotopes of nitrate in the Ganges during the pre-monsoon season to constrain the sources and quantify the inorganic chemical composition of the river during its lean flow. Bedrock weathering, anthropogenic interferences, water contribution through tributaries, and surface water-groundwater interaction were identified as the major driver of metal and ion variability in the river. Heavy metals showed the highest concentrations in the upper section of the river, whereas ionic loads were the most variable in the middle. We find a significant impact of tributaries on the metal and ion concentrations of the Ganges in its lower reaches. Isotopic analysis of dissolved nitrate suggested synthetic fertilizers and industrial wastes as the main sources. We find that the otherwise clean waters of the Ganges can show high ionic/metallic concentrations at isolated stretches (As: up to 36 µg/L), suggesting frequent monitoring in the source region to maintain water quality. Except for water collected from the Yamuna and Kannauj in the middle stretch and the Alaknanda and Rishikesh in the upper stretch, the WQI showed acceptable water quality for the sampled stations. These findings provide an insight into the modifications of dissolved inorganic chemical loads and their sources in different sections of the basin, needed for mitigating site-specific pollution in the river, and a roadmap for evaluating chemical loads in other rivers of the world.
... Due to the continuous discharge of untreated sewage from domestic and commercial sources, industrial and domestic waste directly into the river for many decades, the river becomes dead, and the ecological life of the river chokes to end by pollution. The pollution of this river has led researchers to declare that the Yamuna is 'about to die' (Misra 2010). Domestic sources account for nearly 85% of the total pollution in the Yamuna, primarily from urban areas such as Sonipat, Panipat, Delhi, Ghaziabad, Mathura, Agra, Etawah, and Prayagraj. ...
Nearly 57 million people depend on Yamuna's water for their daily needs and agriculture. This is the first study of assessment of the Yamuna River for five major pollutants - Nitrate, Sulfate, Phosphate, Silicon, and Chloride, and the role of inhabitant algal species for phycoremediation. Water samples were collected from 11 different locations across three different seasons and it was found that the concentration of these pollutants varies in different locations and seasons. The concentration of Nitrate 392.93 mg/L at ITO Monsoon 2021, Phosphate 86.25 mg/L at Baghpat, Silicon 257.34 mg/L at Faridabad, Sulfate 2165.949 mg/L at ITO during winter 2020, and Chloride 4400.741 mg/L at Old bridge during Monsoon 2021 are found maximum. A significant variation (p < 0.05) in the concentrations of Nitrate, Sulfate, Phosphate, Silicon, and Chloride before and after treatment with microalgae was observed in water samples. All six algae significantly remove all the pollutants, and the maximum pollutants removed are Phosphate and Nitrite. Scenedesmus sp., removes the highest 99.21% Phosphate and 86.31% Nitrate, whereas 78.50% of Sulfate was removed by Klebsormidium sp. The highest 92.77% Silicon and 86.20% Chloride were removed by Oocystis sp. This finding suggests that out of six algae, Scenedesmus sp., in the Yamuna water has grown primarily at all the sites and reduces maximum pollutants. The outcomes from this study confirms that Yamuna River is highly contaminated at all the sites from these five major pollutants and algae are still survive in highly contaminated Yamuna water where no other plants are grown and phycoremediate the water bodies even in the presence of very high-stress condition. These algae can further be utilized for biotreatment of any contaminated water body.
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A one-man water quality survey of the Yamuna River of the Indogangetic plain was undertaken to determine the variations in the quality of this river along its course during both summer and winter seasons. The variations in water quality are discussed with regard to the several water quality parameters, and a water quality index representing the integrated effect of the concentrations and relative importance of the parameters is used to denote degradation of the river quality. Stretches of the river are identified which require quality upgrading. A comprehensive strategy is presented for improving the water quality of the river.
Delhi reduces Yamuna to a sewage drain
  • Hindu
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The Mystery of Large-Scale Fish Fatalities in the Yamuna near Agra and the Conflicting Official Theories
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Delhi the biggest Culprite
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Water Quality Status of Yamuna River
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