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Yamuna River in Delhi

The Yamuna river is the largest tributary of the Ganga river. The stretch of the river from its origin to Okhla in Delhi is called “Upper Yamuna”. It covers parts of Delhi, Uttar Pradesh, Himachal Pradesh, Uttaranchal, Haryana, Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh.

Origin of Yamuna river

River YamunaThe Yamuna river originating form the Yamunotri Glacier at 6,387 metres in Uttarkhand’s uppermost region of the Lower Himalayas and covers a total length of 1,376 kilometers. It has a drainage system of 366,223 sq km. From its point of origin the river travels and crosses the states of Uttar Pradesh, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh and Uttarakhand in its journey and then Delhi. The Yamuna meets many of its tributaries on its way like the Tons (its longest and largest tributary in Uttarakhand) and then finally merges with the Ganges at the sacred place known as the “Triveni Sangam in Allahabad” which is the famous site of the Kumbha Mela.

Yamuna in Mythology

The Yamuna is highly adored in Hinduism and is worshipped as goddess Yamuna. According to Hindu mythology Yamuna is the daughter of Surya, the Sun God and sister of the God of Death, Yama, hence it is also known as Yami. The river is also connected with stories relating to lord Krishna. It is said that Lord Krishna was taken across the Yamuna on the night of his birth by Vasudeva.

According to the myth, on the night of God Krishna's birth when Vasudeva carried the new born into a basket and fled the city, he had to cross the mighty river Yamuna, which amazingly changed its coarse for the man and the baby to cross. And just because of this, bathing in the sacred water of the Yamuna river frees one from the sufferings of death.

Geography of Yamuna and it's Tributaries

Yamuna river has an elevation of about 3,293 metres located at the geographical coordinates of 31o01'0.12oN 78o27'0oE. The catchment area of the river is full with semi alpine, alpine, sub-tropical and temperate vegetation. Large areas are under forest cover and it supports extensive animal life like the Asiatic Elephants. The main forests found are Khair, sal, and sissoo trees and Chir Pine forests.

The important tributaries of the Yamuna are Tons, Sharda, Hindon, Gir, Kunta, Rishiganga, Betwa, Hanuman Ganga, Chambal, Sindh and Ken.

Usage of Yamuna

Around 57 million people depend on Yamuna for their daily water needs. With an annual flow of about 10,000 cum (cubic metres) and usage of 4,400 cum (of which irrigation constitutes 96 %) the river contributes for more than 70 % of Delhi’s water supply.

Pollution at Yamuna

River Yamuna Pollution
Yamuna river is considered one of the most polluted in the entire world. The major contributors considered are the high density population growth and rapid industrialization and garbage bin for industrial and household waste.

Delhi contributes around 3,296 MLD of sewage in the river. The water in the river remains stagnant for almost nine months in a year which aggravates the situation. The condition of river further deteriorates due to abstraction of significant amount of river water which leaves almost no fresh water in the river, essential to maintain the assimilation capacity of the river.

The Yamuna river enters Delhi at Palla village which is 15 km upstream of Wazirabad barrage. The Wazirabad barrage acts as a reservoir for Delhi. Against an installed waste water treatment capacity of 1,270 mld, the city generates 1,900 million liters per day (mld) of sewage. Therefore, 630 mld of untreated or partially treated sewage enters the river every day.

Very little water is let out by the Wazirabad barrage into the river. The only flow downstream of Wazirabad is of industrial and sewage effluents during summer. Due to less discharge there is lesser river flow which leads to greater levels of pollution in the Yamuna. The Agra canal branches out from Yamuna from the Okhla barrage (the exit point for the river in Delhi).

Almost no water is released from this barrage to the river during the dry months. Discharges from the Shahadara drain join the river downstream of the barrage, bringing effluents into the river from East Delhi and Noida. This is the second largest polluter of the river after the Najafgarh drain.

The primary problem lies in undetected and untreated pesticide residues. Some waterworks officials in Delhi and Agra have pointed out that pesticide traces cannot be eliminated with conventional method. Organic substances can be assimilated in freshwater only when there is enough freshwater in the river which the river lacks.

An award winning documentaryJijivishawas made on the plight of Yamuna in 2005.

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