Yamuna redevelopment plan evokes nostalgia in some, concern among others

- March 24, 2023
| By : Rohan Chauhan |

The beautification project of the Yamuna riverfront at Shastri Park is a hit among Delhiites, but for slum dwellers, the plan offers little to no hope

Nature's beauty on full display: A vibrant sunset over the Yamuna river

The Yamuna redevelopment plan has received a thumbs up from Delhiites, for many of whom the Yamuna riverfront evokes old memories. On March 15, Delhi Lieutenant Governor V K Saxena announced that the riverfront at Millennium Depot will be developed on the lines of Ahmedabad‘s Sabarmati Riverfront within a span of four to five years.

According to the statement, the Delhi Development Authority (DDA) will plant one lakh trees in the Shastri Park area, and clean, restore, and revitalise the 11km-long stretch.

Sunil in conversation with his friend at Yamuna floodplains in Sonia Vihar

Soon after the LG’s announcement, Patriot met visitors who recalled their earlier trips to the riverfront.

“Back in our college days, my sister and I used to sneak out and come here (Yamuna riverfront) after bunking classes and nobody could figure out that we were here admiring the sunset. We used to sit and talk for hours. But as we grew older, we didn’t have the same luxury. However, it became a fond memory for us,” Sumit Rana, said, while lauding the initiative.

The 28-year-old continued, “The area has always been a tourist destination, with or without the plantation, but it’s a positive step that the authorities are taking to protect the floodplains. Having said that, one will have to see how long it takes them to complete the project.”

The condition of Yamuna has deteriorated over the years and the floodplains slowly turned into a ground for waste disposal and animal litter.

“It was my first time in Delhi. I was applying for colleges. After getting done with the whole submission procedure, I was excited to see the Yamuna. Although it was extremely hot and humid, the emotion I felt while sitting on the floodplains was serene. Salty air running through my hair and the sound of water made my day. It was no less than a film scene. This place has some magic. It soothes all your stress, and the sight of sparkling blue water comforts your sight.” says Sunil Arora, 46.

Eventually, the Yamuna floodplains became Arora’s “second home”.

Welcoming the beautification project, Arora said that authorities should also invest in improving the condition of those living in the floodplains.

“The people living here are the ones who are going to eventually take care of the floodplains. It is very difficult for them to focus on greenery and promote tourism when they themselves are struggling for basic amenities,” he said.

Yogesh Lal, 54, who lives in the floodplains beneath the ITO bridge, said people will support and sustain the authorities’ efforts, but questioned the idea behind the move.

“Every year, when the water level rises, we are ordered to leave our homes. Our crops are submerged and destroyed. So, regardless of how many trees they plant, will they survive in that situation? Who will water the plants in Delhi’s hot weather and who will look after them? And we have no idea what will happen to us as a result of the redevelopment,” says Lal.

“There are about 60 families who have been living here for a long time. There has been no official notice; we were not even aware of the redevelopment, but if that occurs, we don’t know whether we will be allowed to remain or asked to leave. So, I’m hoping that’s not the case, but in the meantime, we’ll assist the authorities in any way we can and work to keep the floodplains clean,” Lal says.

The Yamuna floodplains: A reminder of the power of water and the resilience of nature in the face of natural disasters

It’s a calming but troubling sensation, according to Alka Lamba, 32. “The place gives me peace, but it also makes me feel strangely restless. It instills a sense of calm. I come here on a regular basis, and it works better than any therapy I’ve tried. Whether it’s a difficult day at work or a problem in a relationship, all problems disappear after spending time with yourself here,” added Lamba.

Physical cleaning of the banks and the floodplains is one of the main components of the rejuvenation work that is to be done for the restoration of Yamuna Floodplains in the future.