When it comes to renewal and revival of the Yamuna and a reminder that Delhi is a riverine city, the thought bubble floats only in seminar rooms and has seldom become an actionable plan on the ground. Even when Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal talked of a determined effort at river rejuvenation, few had taken him seriously considering his clipped power portfolio given Delhi’s special status. But his trip to Seoul, to the Cheonggyecheon stream to be precise, has re-charged him.
Cheonggyecheon stream was a much neglected waterway that was hidden by an overpass. The rivulet's remarkable replacement of a traffic-filled stretch of an elevated freeway with public space, water and vegetation, is an epitome of a modern urbanist's dream. In an attempt to preserve the unique identity of natural environment, the Seoul Metropolitan Government undertook a restoration project in 2005 and renewed it. If Cheonggyecheon stream could be turned from a dirty polluted 11-km stream into a tourist hotspot, why can't river Yamuna be revived? He could well borrow some river rejuvenation tips considering the Delhi Government has signed a twin city agreement, "'Establishment of Friendship City Relationship" with the Seoul Metropolitan Government.
Cities with rivers should consider themselves blessed as they anchor the biosphere and restore the natural cycle. Take Besos in Barcelona, for instance. Once known for being the most contaminated river in Europe, it was rejuvenated through bio-remediation techniques that helped in cleansing the soil and pollutants discharged into the river. Closer home, one may recall the success of the Sabarmati River rejuvenation programme, which showed determined political will turning the tide in favour of progress. The Goa unit of the All India Congress Seva Dal will launch Mandovi Bachao Andolan on October 2 to recharge the river that has made cruise tourism possible. If Kejriwal can indeed clean up the Yamuna riverfront and get boats to bob up and down in its waters, he would not only win hearts but be seen to be attempting the impossible as a doer who doesn’t fight shy of challenges.