On Delhi’s Toxic River, Prayers to a Sun Struggling to Shine Through Smog

When Sonu Prasad, 36, her brother-in-law, a button-maker, takes a shower, he says, “it goes into a small canal, then a big canal, and then into the river,” he explains.

Ravi Shankar Gupta, the husband of Ms. Devi and the older brother of Sonu, described the place as “a sewer.” When it comes to making an offering to the sun deity, “Even if you stand in a gutter and make an offering, I will protect you for all year.”

However, even if they don’t, “What can we do?” asks the speaker. Mr. Gupta added, citing the infighting between the states that the river flows through as an example. “We’ll still be here, and we’ll still have fun.”

Since it divides Delhi and Uttar Pradesh, the Yamuna’s cleanup has been particularly difficult due to this fact. Millions have been spent over the past few decades, but to no avail. It is estimated that less than half of the 16 billion gallons of daily sewage generated in India’s urban areas is treated, and the rest pollutes its rivers, according to government figures.

Two-thirds of the city’s sewage is treated in the city’s overburdened sewage treatment facility. Untreated industrial waste and hundreds of millions of gallons of sewage are still dumped into the Yamuna as it meanders through the city.

The Yamuna River, which flows through Delhi, provides the majority of the city’s drinking water. After that, the river gets a real beating from trash dumped into it.