New Delhi: There is construction underway on the Yamuna floodplain between Bela Farm and Garhi Mandu In northeast Delhi, with a 15-metre-high debris mound and, surprisingly, a govt institution is responsible for this illegal activity. This fact was pointed out by Suhas Borker, founder member of Green Circle of Delhi, at an environment seminar on Thursday.Such violations must be dealt with in accordance with the judgment of the National Green Tribunal in the Manoj Misra Vs Others case, said Borker. All kind of construction and dumping on the floodplain from Palla to Kalindi must stop immediately, he insisted.
The conference held at India International Centre, where environment experts, engineers and former bureaucrats, including former Union environment secretary Ashok Lavasa participated, said it was important to develop a river quality index on the line of the air quality index, refurbish the wetland, develop biodiversity parks and press for a political will putting ecology over aesthetics.

Explaining a river as being a complex landform and an important component of the hydrological cycle, Faiyaz Khudsar, biodiversity parks expert, said there were problems related to the river and its floodplain, among them silted wetlands and infestation by invasive alien species, especially fishes.
Khudsar said there was a need to restore the characteristic grasslands and floodplain forestry and cited the success at Yamuna Biodiversity Park, where scientific approach revived the riparian system. “Scientists, ecologists and planners must be involved in any intervention,” he said. “Development activities and dumping must be strictly prohibited on the floodplain. And when considering plantations, test the salt, find the ecological history, the closest reference of ecological history and then find what would be best to plant in the area.”
Sanitation expert Ashok Mandal noted that while only 60% of the city was connected to drains, only 75% of the drain network was being used. He shared a success story from his residential colony, Anand Lok in south Delhi, where, as RWA president, he had managed to raise the groundwater level from 60ft in 2003 to 27ft in 2023 through rainwater harvesting. “While the demand for water from the Yamuna rises, there is not enough effort at tapping clean water through extensive rainwater harvesting,” he said.
While in the Union environment ministry, he had seen the Yamuna sadly losing its flow, recalled Lavasa. “We need a river health index, like AQI. Around 1987, the Yamuna had good rapids and rafting was planned between Paonta Sahib in Himachal Pradesh and Tajewala in Haryana. It took two years to procure rafts and by that time, the rapids had disappeared after a canal was made somewhere upstream,” Lavasa said.
The danger of vegetables being grown in a floodplain contaminated by heavy metals was flagged by Deeksha Katyal from the school of environment management, Guru Gobind Singh Indraprastha University.