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Millions Spent, but the Indian Capital's River Still Stinks

ry day.

After that, only drains carrying thick sewage feed the river.

Delhi has invested a huge amount on waste treatment in the last decade: between 170 million and 214 million dollars according to estimates from the nonprofit Centre for Science and the Environment which put out a study on the river in April.

A national river cleaning programme also spent 175 million on the river, more than a third of that in Delhi.

But the city grew -- from 1991 to 2001 its population expanded by 47 percent -- and now a third of Delhi's waste, the biggest cause of the river's pollution, goes into the Yamuna untreated, the pollution monitoring board says.

The city is playing a game of catch-up, and losing it could be deadly, environmentalists say.

"We can't afford to develop a waste treatment culture where only some part of waste is treated," said Centre for Science and Environment director Sunita Narain. "One hidden cost of a dirty river is bad health" for people living downstream.

Every year almost 400,000 Indian children die because of diarrhea alone, according to UNICEF.

"The government starts throwing money at the problem without really understanding what the problem is," said Shreekant Gupta, who until March headed the National Institute for Urban Affairs think-tank.

"The response has been to put money into sewage treatment plants where half the drains are not connected to them."

-- Sewage pipe dreams --

The new sewage plants sit idle at times, short of waste, while homes and shops that have sprouted unplanned around them send their domestic waste into storm drains that go directly to the river.

The pipes that do lead to the plants are falling apart -- a third are in urgent need of repair -- so sewage gets blocked on its way and has to be pumped out, also ending up in the drains.

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