NEW DELHI: It’s an unseemly sight. Hundreds of acres of farmland in Rawta, the last village in Delhi this side of the Haryana border, lie submerged under dark-grey sewage and the stink hangs heavy in the area. The 5,000 residents are now wary of rains, because the malodorous mess flows from Gurugram to the village due to the absence of a boundary wall on the Najafgarh drain.

The flooded fields also have an economic aspect, with villages claiming they invest Rs 25,000 per acre in the affected fields
The problem has existed for 20 years, but the magnitude of the problem has just gone up. Earlier, around 120 acres of farmland was affected, but this year sewage has almost entered homes. “Out of 1,000 acres of village land, 70% is under water and almost 10% of the houses within the extended village boundaries have been inundated,” claimed farmer Rajnish Phalswal.
Standing before his 1.5 acre of now destroyed paddy field, Phalswal said that more than 700 acres of freshly sown rice fields have also been destroyed by the waste flowing in from Gurgaon. “Since the village residential area is at a slight height, our houses haven’t all been affected by the sludge so far. But one more spell of heavy rains in Gurugram and we will be submerged in sewage,” the farmer sighed.
Paras Tyagi, who runs the Centre for Youth Culture Law and Environment, an organisation working on issues related to Delhi’s villages, revealed that waste water had been flowing into the farms at Rawta since early 2000, but the successive governments hadn’t resolved this problem through the building of appropriate infrastructure. “This year, the problem has worsened perhaps due to the construction of several structures along the length of drain up to the Yamuna,” said Tyagi. “After 1990, when the panchayat system was abolished in Delhi, it is painful to see that rural areas aren’t able to access support from the state government because there’s no local leadership.”
With stagnation of waste water has come a looming fear of a public health crisis in the form of dengue and other water-borne diseases. Kripal Singh, village resident, said that all the flats in Gurugram localities like Dharampura channelled their sewage into the Najafgarh drain. “Rawta villagers have been suffering from skin problems for 15 years now because of the dirty water in their fields and homes,” Singh said.
The flooded fields also have an economic aspect, with villages claiming they invest Rs 25,000 per acre in the affected fields. “Many farmers took loans in June to sow rice on 70-80 leased acres,” said Birender Tokas. “Delhi government should come here and see the extent of damage to our source of income.”
Tyagi himself was quietly caustic when he said, “When the change in land use for 90 acres for the revamping of the central vista catches everyone’s attention, don’t Delhi’s villages also deserve a hearing?”

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