Yamuna originates from the glacial lake of Sapta Kund approximately 12km. right up mountain from the Yamunotri in the Himalayas. It finally merges with the Ganga and Underground Saraswati at Prayag in Allahabad. There are no notable tributaries bringing water to river Yamuna for a distance of around 250 km of its flow in the plains except for a seasonal stream called Som Nadi (joining it close `to Saharanpur in UP) and heavily polluted river Hindon (joining it south of Greater NOIDA in UP) till the river Chambal meets the river Yamuna near Etawah (UP). So majority of water in the river south of the Hathnikund Barrage is either from ground water accrual or the waste water drains joining the river.

                         LOCATION MAP OF RIVER YAMUNA


River Yamuna enters the National Capital Territory of Delhi, at Palla in the north and leaves at Jaitpur in the south traversing a length of 48 km. This 48 Km strech is inclusive of the 22 km stretch from Wazirabad to Okhla.Its Width varies from 1.5 km to 3 km in Delhi. The total river bed in Delhi segment is around 97 sq.km, almost covering 7% of total area of Delhi. The river bed gently slopes from 208 M.S.L to 199 M.S.L towards the south creating a gradient of 9m towards south. The Yamuna’s flood plains cover approximately 95.38% of the total area of the river. The stretch of river Yamuna between Wazirabad and Okhla (22km) is heavily polluted carrying massive input of wastewater from Delhi. It has 3 major canals being drawn from it namely Western Yamuna canal, Eastern Yamuna canal and Agra canal.



48 km (26 km in south of Wazirabad Barrage)


1.5 km to 3 km

Area of river zone

97 sq.km

Area under water


Area under dry land


Drains falling in river


 Largest drain

Najafgarh Drain



River Yamuna flows through Delhi for a stretch of 22 kms from Wazirabad to Okhla barrage and its spread various from 1.5 km to 3 km. Total river bed/ flood prone area is around 97 sq.km, which is about 7% of the total area of Delhi. The river extends beyond its channel into the city.


There has been a gradual shift in the attitude of the people towards Yamuna over time. From the sacred river it has become subject of ignorance by the people, transformed into a service corridor today, once it has flowed through the city regardless and forever much before even the first city here was built. From the time of Tuglaq, through the times of Shajahan, the British and now. It even flowed through the ‘Red Fort’ when it was brought from the nearby city of Karnal by the Emperor Shahjahan through a canal which he called the Nahr – i- Bihishti. The waters then streamed through the Chandani Chowk and the Emperor's royal darbar itself. Goods were ferried along the river, as were the people and the emperor in his flotilla. Today vegetables grow on its bank. Rag pickers and priests along with fishermen, laborers, sand dredgers and slum folks also live there, servicing the city in one way or another. The river was (and unknown to most of the city, still is) central to the life of the city and to its ecology. Now, that it represents merely an unmet water standard, every other aspect of it is unimportant or even a hindrance. The river is hard to see. Several bridges now span the river, more modern and faster than the aging but classic old Yamuna pull. Very tall high wire meshes protect the river from those who wish to throw marigold malas into it. Instead of trying to build access to it, it has ensured that there is none.




ø  80% of the pollution is due to treated & untreated waste water entering Yamuna through 22 drains entering it. These drains contribute almost 90% of the flow & 80% BOD levels in Yamuna respectively.

ø  The Yamuna’s water is reasonably clean from its origin in Yamunotri till it reaches Wazirabad, that is, for about 375 km. Fifteen drains between Wazirabad and Okhla barrage render the river a sewage drain with BOD values above permissible limitsand without any dissolved oxygen.

ø  The riverbank at many places is like a home garden. It is fertile land enriched by the silt brought down from the mountains during the monsoon rains, when the water rises. The produce is now getting contaminated through all the heavy metals which the water has been impregnated with. Not even the strong evening summer sun can penetrate the blackness of the river water where boats act as freight carriers. Each morning and evening vegetables are ferried from the bank as well as from the small river islands, both downstream and upstream to reach points close to markets. The same boats carry the workers to and fro from work sites.

ø   Abandoned dhobi ghats, their tubs and kilns clustered on the edge of the waters, lie scattered.

ø  At other sites there are large bulldozers, precisely dredger keeps returning to the river for more sand, until sunrise announces the end of the work ‘day.’ Yamuna sand is critical for the construction activity on in the city. In fact, all the pollutants that have deposited into it.


YAMUNA ACTION PLAN approved April 1993 for 21 towns (Delhi, 12 towns ; Haryana & 8 towns; UP) YAP has been implemented in 8 towns namely, Saharanpur, Muzaffarnagar, Ghaziabad, Noida, Vrindavan, Mathura, Agra & Etawah. All 144 schemes including 15 sewage treatment plants have been completed and commissioned and are functional. The main objective of YAP is to improve the water quality of river & restore it to the desired bathing class. Pollution from domestic sewage is tackled under YAP, whereas pollution of industries is monitored and controlled under the existing environmental laws. The failure of schemes under YAP (Delhi) lies in fact that the calculations done by DJB do not account for unauthorized colonies and many common reasons as mentioned later.

Somewhere between the two realities of the river lies a struggle. One, that of the ‘dirty river’ which must be sanitized and controlled and another, of the river that is part of our personal and collective ecologies. The city is like a technological venture. Water comes from a municipal tap and food from the supermarket or the nearby retailer. Clean air is a matter of implementing the proper environmental standards. The ecological connection is forgotten. The river is needed so long as it serves a purpose.



Environmental management plan for river Yamuna, Delhi segment, SPA, New Delhi