Yamuna’s water receding, but woes still running high

August 20th, 2008 - 7:17 pm ICT by IANS  

New Delhi, Aug 20 (IANS) Officially, the Yamuna’s water level is receding albeit slowly. But the suffering of the hundreds displaced from their submerged homes in as the river overflowed its banks is yet to ebb - the floodwaters taking with them their livelihoods and the earnings of a lifetime.Usmanpur, a hamlet in northeast Delhi, is one of the several which got completely inundated Monday when the Yamuna’s level rose above the danger level. Two days of bright sunshine later, people who had lost their homes still don’t have much to look forward to.

“What will I look forward to? My hut is still floating in the water and most of my belongings are lost… things like my TV which I bought after putting together my savings are all gone,” said a bleary eyed Kishan Lal, a labourer, in one of the temporary tents propped up on a dry mass of land.

Lal, is one of the many people who had left his home in Bihar 12 years back to come to Delhi in search of a better life. With the floods, most of that life he had built so carefully has been washed away.

Sitting next to Lal is Raghu Ram, an agricultural labourer, wondering how he will bring his life back on track. He lost his cattle to the floods and just doesn’t know what lies ahead.

“Last week, some people told us that the incessant rains had created a flood like situation in some places in Delhi. By the next morning, we woke up to knee-deep water in our houses! As the police asked us to evacuate, we had to leave behind most of our things, including our cattle,” Ram told IANS.

“Life in this tent is terrible. There is not enough food being distributed, not enough beds…but I am scared to even think what will happen once we have to go back to fending our own way. How am I going to support my family?” he asked, a question posed more to himself than anybody else.

A little distance away sat Rashmi Ali, a mother of two, with her feet resting on a TV she managed to rescue from her home.

“The water has started drying but I am worried because my child has fallen ill. He has been running high fever since yesterday,” she said.

Flipping open her mobile phone, she called her husband and asked him to get medicines for the ailing child.

“As it is we are in such a bad situation, with half our belongings gone. And then these illnesses, but what to do…,” she smiled faintly.

Monday morning saw the city wake up in alarm as the Yamuna’s water level touched 205.71 metres, the year’s highest and definitely above the danger level.

While the evacuation of people from their homes in the low lying areas like Usmanpur, Garhi Mandi and Chilla village had been underway earlier, it was stepped up and everybody was moved out.

As Ram, Lal and the many hundreds in the villages ponder over their uncertain tomorrows, officials at the Delhi Flood Control Department say they are relieved since the water level has started dipping.

“The danger level of the water of the Yamuna river is 204.83 metres and while the water right now is still above that level, things are beginning to look positive. After Monday’s 205.71, Wednesday saw the level dip to 205.61 metres. The level is receding,” said an official in the flood control department.

Environmentalists, however, refuse to echo the complacency and say this was a disaster waiting to happen.

“These floods are an indicator to the government to look back at its plans. Today, real estate seems to be controlling everything, the uncontrolled growth of buildings and various constructions of the Yamuna river’s flood plains is the cause of such disasters,” said Vimlendu Jha of the campaign Swechha- We for Change.

“Constructions on the floodplains depletes it of its water recharge capacity. If you look at the Commonwealth village, obviously they have plans of stopping the water from entering it, if flood like situation happens. That would divert the water towards the other low lying areas and submerge them,” he said.

Manoj Misra of the Yamuna Jiye Abhiyan put it simply: “People losing their lives, their livelihood is a sad situation. But this is the river’s way of expressing that it has the right over its floodplains”.

“The planners have never listened to us, probably now they will learn.”

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