The sprawling greenery of the Sanjay Jheel is not only the lung of East Delhi, but it is the haven for many migratory birds that fly here every winter. Different types of birds can be seen here till February end every year. Shovellers, pintail, common pochard, tufted pochard, common teal, spot-bill, yellow-headed wagtail and pied wagtail are some of the birds that commonly visit the lake.
But environmentalists have warned that the migratory birds may stop coming to the lake in near future. V. Selvarajan, Secretary, Green Circle, an NGO working for the conservation of natural environment, says, “With uncontrolled growth of water hyacinths and weeds, and noise pollution resulting from the increasing urbanization of the area, many migratory birds may stop coming to the area. ”He says that in the past, he had also written to Sheila Dixit, the then Chief Minister of Delhi, to declare the lake as a ‘mini bird sanctuary’, but their request went unheard. “Despite so many initiatives, the condition of the lake continues to deteriorate,” he adds.
On papers, there are some initiatives for beautification of the lake. In 2012, the East Delhi Municipal Corporation had earmarked Rs. 50 lakh for the plantation of new saplings and shaping trees at Sanjay Lake and another lake in Shahadra. But the ground reality is far from the ideal. On the eastern side of the lake (near Trilokpuri) the smell of cow dung and human excreta increases as one goes closer to the lake. People can be seen washing clothes in the lake.
A lady washing clothes shares, “We bring these clothes from the nearby automobile repair shops. These clothes are used to clean the engine parts and contain a lot of oil and grease. Since we cannot wash these clothes anywhere else, we bring it here.” She also reveals that they have been doing this for many years now.
The DDA official, in charge of the lake, says that the migratory birds mostly come to the eastern part of the lake, as the water is deeper and the area is free from human disturbances.
But little has been done to conserve the ecology of the lake, which hosts these migratory birds and the numerous fishes. The last test that was conducted by the Delhi Pollution Control Board was way back in 2009. It revealed that the east end of the lake (adjacent to Trilokpuri) is the most polluted stretch. The Total Suspended Solids were recorded to be the highest near the Trilokpuri. While it was 28 mg/l near DDA club, the level was as high as 52 mg/l at this end. Similarly, the Chemical Oxygen Demand, which was 60mg/l near Jhoola was 76 mg/l near the Trilokpuri side. The free ammonia, which was 0.1 mg/l near Jhoola pool, was recorded at 0.4 mg/l on this side. In other words, across many parameters, the lake near Trilokpuri was more polluted than on the Yamuna side, which is better maintained.
An expert from the Centre for Science and Environment warns that the pollution of the lake would not only harm the animals and birds but also the residents around.
“As per Central Pollution Control Board, the pH of should be in the range of 6.5-8.5. But the pH is 8.7, which is slightly higher. There should have been some more tests which would have given a better picture of the water quality, such as the total Coliform organism, Turbidity and Alkalinity,” says Sunita Narain, Environmentalist and director general, Centre for Science and Environment.
She is more concerned about the water that seeps into the ground. “The soil in East Delhi is very porous. As a result, the absorption of water is good. If the lake gets polluted, the water that seeps into the ground will also get polluted. It is still easy to purify the water in the lake, but once it goes inside, it is very difficult to purify it. If humans consume this water, there can be very dangerous effects,” Sunita explains.