In late March, during the festival of Chhath Puja, Hindu devotees in New Delhi bathed in the sacred Yamuna River.
However, the river was covered in toxic foam due to the high level of pollution present. Despite being considered one of the most sacred rivers in India, the Yamuna remains one of the most polluted rivers in the world.
This has significant effects on the population of New Delhi, which relies on the river’s water. The pollution is caused in part by domestic wastewater – a 2019 report from the Central Pollution Control Board found that 90% of it flows into the Yamuna from New Delhi.
Factories, particularly in the textile and dyeing industry, also release untreated water into the river.
The ammonia level in the Yamuna is a serious concern, with levels in Delhi found to be higher than 5 ppm, well above the acceptable limit of 0.5 ppm.
This affects access to water in the city and has significant consequences for those with limited resources. People who live close to the river also suffer from a range of health problems due to the pollution.
Despite the risks, many people still devote themselves to the river and use it for a range of activities including bathing and irrigation.