Will not replicate Sabarmati model for Yamuna: Delhi water minister (IANS interview)

New Delhi, Sep 17 (IANS) Delhi Water Minister Kapil Mishra has said that Gujarat’s Sabarmati riverfront project cannot be a model for the Yamuna river in the capital, calling it a “disaster” and an “eyewash.”

The youngest minister in the Arvind Kejriwal-led Delhi cabinet, Mishra said the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) government and the Narendra Modi-ruled Centre were in “harmony,” on cleaning-up the Yamuna.

“They (central government) have shown their willingness. Uma Bhartiji (Union minister or water resources, river development and Ganga rejuvenation) has shown her commitment. We are working in harmony,” Mishra told IANS in an interview here.

The 34-year-old, who has been a green activist, said that he would not hesitate to knock at the door of the Modi government, with whom the Kejriwal dispensation has been at loggerheads ever since AAP rode to power in February.

“However, there is one Sabarmati river model being talked about across the country. It is a disaster and an eyewash,” he added.

“I have studied the model and told the central government that we are not going to replicate the model for Yamuna,” he added.

Sabarmati Riverfront is developed along the banks of Sabarmati river in Ahmedabad in the Bharatiya Janata Party-ruled state of Gujarat.

The 11-km stretch of Sabarmati river that flows through the city is recharged with water from the Narmada river.

It was on its banks that Prime Minister Narendra Modi had strolled with Chinese President Xi Jinping. Xi and his wife Peng Liyuan were widely photographed on a swing installed on the riverfront during their visit to India.

During president’s rule in 2014 in Delhi, Lt. Governor Najeeb Jung, with whom the AAP government had repeated run-ins, had shown keen interest in adopting the Sabramati model to rejuvenate the fabled Yamuna.

“They have got Narmada’s water and created a pond like situation… whatever people are seeing is Narmada’s water. Sabarmati is still dirty. That kind of artificial change we are not going to do. It’s not that we will create pond and ask people to visit it. We will clean Yamuna,” said Mishra.

And for the cleaning of Yamuna, the minister is even ready to reach out to the “enemies.”

“One thing I can tell you that even if I have to knock at the doors of anyone, whether it be BJP leaders or Congress leaders or our enemies, we will do it. Cleaning Yamuna is beyond politics.”

He said the order of the National Green Tribunal on cleaning the Yamuna would be implemented in “letter and spirit.”

Mishra has set a 36-month deadline for cleaning the 22-km stretch of Yamuna – a task that successive governments failed to do in past two decades.

Despite spending over Rs.1,500 crore on three Yamuna Action Plans, the first of which was launched way back in 1993, the river remains a cesspool.

“There will no phase I and phase II model. It has to be now. The Yamuna has to be cleaned now. We can’t have 20-year action plans to clean the river.” he said.

“We are going to take a bath in the river in 36 months,” the minister said.

The rejuvenation of Yamuna needed to be a “people’s movement,” Mishra said adding that the government could not do it alone.

“We are going to connect people with the river. Unless people of Delhi start spending time on the banks of Yamuna, there will be no sense of belongings.”

He said the banks of Yamuna “have to be open to the people of Delhi.”

(Gaurav Sharma can be contacted on gaurav.s@ians.in)

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