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Insane act in toxic river foam

    At a quick glance it appeared as if large mounds of snow were blanketing one of India’s main rivers.

    Instead, the fluffy white piles were toxic foam, by-products of industrial waste from factories dumping chemicals in the Yamuna River in New Delhi.

    The 1376km-long Yamuna is one of India’s holiest rivers and courses right through the centre of Delhi.

    The toxic foam, photographed earlier this week, added to the woes of New Delhi residents who were already enduring a blanket of thick smog over the capital.

    Men stand on a boat as devotees perform religious rituals while standing in the waters of river Yamuna. Picture: Money Sharma/AFP

    Men stand on a boat as devotees perform religious rituals while standing in the waters of river Yamuna. Picture: Money Sharma/AFP
    A Hindu devotee stands over the Yamuna river. Picture: Anindito Mukherjee/Getty Images
    A Hindu devotee stands over the Yamuna river. Picture: Anindito Mukherjee/Getty Images

    The Yamuna is already one of the most polluted waterways in the world but levels worsened when mounds of white chemical foam settled over the water this week.

    The city government blamed the blight on “heavy sewage and industrial waste” discharged into the river from further upstream last week.

    Despite the toxic blanket, a number of Hindi worshippers were not deterred from taking a dip in the river to mark Chhath Puja, a four-day festival to offer prayers to the sun.

    Some worshippers waded into the river until they were knee-deep with some taking selfies with the foam while others submerged their entire body.

    Authorities in New Delhi attempted to stop the foam, using boats to try and disperse the toxic substance and setting up bamboo barriers to stop the foam from soaking into the banks.

    A devotee performs religious rituals as she offers prayers to the Sun god. Picture: Money Sharma/AFP

    A devotee performs religious rituals as she offers prayers to the Sun god. Picture: Money Sharma/AFP
    Devotees in the Yamuna. Picture: Money Sharma/AFP
    Devotees in the Yamuna. Picture: Money Sharma/AFP

    But the pollution did disrupt water supply to part of the city, according to local officials, who did not say how many households had been affected.

    “I would like to thank the affected residents for their co-operation,” Raghav Chadha, vice-chair of the city’s water authority, said in a statement.

    “Our team of officers and engineers are working day and night to ensure Delhi residents’ water woes stay at a minimum.”

    The Yamuna provides more than half of New Delhi’s water supply but rising pollution levels have created a slew of health problems for the millions of people that use it.

    Indian officials have long pledged to clean the Yamuna but without success, and the blooms of toxic foam have become an annual occurrence.

    Devotees gather to perform religious rituals on the banks of river Yamuna. Picture: Money Sharma/AFP

    Devotees gather to perform religious rituals on the banks of river Yamuna. Picture: Money Sharma/AFP

    A 2020 government report found water quality in the river had become “critically worse” over the last five years.

    While the river is concerning, the air quality in Delhi and its surrounds is also at dire levels.

    Since last week, the region has been engulfed in thick and hazardous smog.

    The haze has been compounded by agricultural fires in nearby farming communities and a barrage of fireworks set off by the capital’s residents to mark Diwali, despite a ban on their sale.

    Levels of harmful PM 2.5 particles have topped 400 in several areas, which is 16 times higher than the daily safe limit set by the World Health Organisation.

    New Delhi regularly has the world’s worst air quality each day with winter being particularly bad.

    With AFP

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