Information about the issue

The Yamuna Rejuvenation Project was launched by the Union Government in collaboration with the Delhi Jal Board (DJB) and the University of Virginia. It is a research based project aimed at rejuvenating the river in the NCR of Delhi by way of redevelopment of the drains, particularly the Najafgarh drains, which flow into the Yamuna river and account for the majority of pollution in the river. Through engaging government agencies, experts and environmental activists, in India and internationally, the YRP engages with the multidimensional challenges in the recovery of the river. Addressing concerns in areas like public health, urban design, architecture, governance etc., it has recommended working plans in planned urban development projects on the banks of the river, the replacement of drainage systems of the British era among others. However, these urban development projects have resulted in eviction drives and demolition of the dwellings on the floodplains and this has been severely affecting the rights of a large number of slum dwelling communities who reside in the floodplains.

Although the YRP aims at ecological and urban development, it has failed to incorporate within its ambit the needs and priorities of the slum dwellers residing on the Yamuna floodplains. The Delhi Development Authority (DDA), under the Yamuna Rejuvenation Project, has been demolishing the shelter and agricultural land of the people residing on the Yamuna floodplains (farmers and other workers including domestic help, sanitation workers, etc.) without providing them any assurance of rehabilitation or an alternate livelihood option, thereby snatching away their basic requirements of housing and livelihood. This isn’t a new phenomenon as such anti-encroachment drives have been carried on since the NGT Order of 2015 that bans cultivation of any crop on the floodplains.

Constitutional and Human Rights Obligations

“Right to City”, which has been recognised as a vital part of the right to adequate housing under international law was reinforced in the recent judgement of Delhi High Court in Ajay Maken & Ors. vs Union of India. It has also been well-established by the Supreme Court in Olga Tellis & Ors. vs Bombay Municipal Corporation and Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation vs Nawab Khan Gulab Khan that eviction of slum dwellers without prior notice or rehabilitation plan is a clear violation of Right to Life (Article 21). As per Sudama Singh & Others vs Government Of Delhi & Anr., the State Agencies should ensure basic civic amenities for slum dwellers consistent with the rights to life and dignity of ‘each’ of the citizens. 

Such evictions are also violative of Directive Principles of State Policy under Articles 38, 39 & 41 and against the provisions recognised in the UNHRC resolution 2004/28 wherein all governments are required to ensure that the rights of evicted people are not violated. Similarly, the UN guiding principles on the security of tenure for the urban poor, The New Urban Agenda, United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Peasants and Other People Working in Rural Areas put the onus on the government authorities to formulate rehabilitation policies that acknowledge and address people’s vulnerable status in the event of any form of government-led eviction. 

What are we doing in this regard?

Arguing that the demolition drives under the YRP is detrimental to the Project’s object of urban development, since slum dwellers constitute an indispensable part of Delhi’s urban set up, we have written to the Lieutenant Governor of Delhi, the Chief Minister of Delhi, Chief Executive Officer, DUSIB, Vice Chairman, DDA,  & the Secretary, DJB elaborating on our concerns and suggesting policy reforms for course correction.

Policy Recommendations 

  1. Provide a 60 days advance notice before any demolition drive to ensure opportunity to arrange for an alternative place of residence. 
  2. Relocate residents of informal settlements into permanent housing units under the Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana (PMAY), as lack of formal housing has been identified as the main reason for informal residential settlements alongside the floodplains. 
  3. Empower the Delhi Urban Shelter Improvement Board (DUSIB) for rehabilitating the evicted or yet to be evicted slum dwellers according to the Delhi Slum & JJ Rehabilitation and Relocation Policy, 2015 which can be implemented by the DDA. 
  4. Provide compensation to the farmers residing in the floodplains as relocation leads to them losing their only source of income, i.e., farming. As farming has been banned on the banks of the Yamuna river, work towards upskilling farmers situated in the region under the Pradhan Mantri Kaushal Vikas Yojana (PMKVY), so that they are able to sustain their livelihood options in the case of eviction and displacement. 
  5. In the long run, employ the displaced farmers to develop biodiversity parks for the purpose of restoration and beautification of the Yamuna floodplains. 
  6. As the policies of rehabilitation emphasize, the government should plan for in-situ rehabilitation to ensure that the people do not lose their employment, make provisions for their financial security and rehabilitate them to the areas where their jobs are not adversely impacted.
  7. Incorporate an eviction impact assessment as a tool for designing development projects that are compliant with human rights and help in assessing the differential impact on the different groups of the displaced population and the types of measures that can address their various needs. 
  8. Initiate community and public partnership by ensuring participation of private entrepreneurs and NGOs to create awareness programmes that draw the attention of the aggrieved residents towards government schemes such as Urban Self Employment Programme (USEP), Urban Women Self-Help Programme (UWSP), Skill Training for Employment Promotion amongst Urban Poor (STEP-UP), Urban Community Development Network (UCDN) etc., to assist them in the event of loss of livelihood.

What can you do to further this cause?

  • You can share our Social Media Updates regarding this issue, to help increase the outreach of this campaign.
  • In case you are a resident of Delhi, and wish to write to the Government exercising your right to information on connected issues, write to us.
  • You can even volunteer to support this campaign, as per your skillset.
  • If you are an organisation working in this domain, and would like to collaborate to take up this or the connecting issues forward, write to us.

Important Documents

  1. Letter to stakeholders by LQF dated 19th November, 2020
  2. NGT’s Order elaborating on the mechanism for restoration of the river Yamuna