During our ten days of fieldwork, we were able to explore eight areas along the Yamuna River. The typical day consisted of getting to the metro by 9 am (along with what seemed like half of the Delhi population–we truly appreciated the women-only cars!), meeting our interpreter by 9:15, finding a rickshaw driver who was able and willing to take us to a place that we could point to on a map but lacked any street name (or street access in many cases), and arriving to the general area of our desired destination by 10:30. At that point, we were on foot, literally in the field, looking for anyone who was actively farming the land and willing to talk to us. Interviews lasted about 30-45 minutes, and we averaged 4-5 interviews in each area. We selected areas so that we could create a transect of the river from north to south. This is a summary of each of the eight areas (refer to map #s for geographic reference):
Area 1: We actually ended up in this area by requesting that the rickshaw driver take us to a place where we would have access to the river. One right turn instead of a left…and here we were! This area is owned by a private landowner, and many of the farmers are recent migrants from a more rural area. The area is above the floodplain and outside of the Delhi city limits. Farmers live here permanently and grow vegetable crops year round.
Area 2: This area is above the Wazirabad Barrage (flood control dam). It is comprised of both privately owned and government (Delhi Development Authority or DDA) land. It floods seasonally based on the severity of the monsoon rains. The farmers live here temporarily and some have permanent residences elsewhere. There are vegetable and cereal crops, as well as a few small herds of water buffalo. This is also the field in which we were told to stay on the path since there are cobras—just moments after we had bushwhacked our way through to find a path! There are also natural ponds scattered along this stretch of land. The main road along the eastern boundary is elevated, perhaps functioning as a natural flood barrier during monsoon season, which isolates this area, and makes it a bit of a challenge to find a pedestrian path down into it.
Area 3: This is a tiny island that supports a small farming community. It requires a rowboat to access it. It is below the Wazirabad Barrage, meaning that the quality of the water is problematic, and irrigation is by means of wells. There are a number of islands supporting agriculture in the Yamuna, and this one produces vegetable crops from end to end. The housing structures are temporary and rebuilt each year after the seasonal floods recede. It is DDA land that the farming community leases through a cooperative society (more on that later…).
Area 4: This area sits in the shadow of the Old Iron Bridge. There is intensive intercropping of vegetable crops. This area was highly productive of roses until a recent flood destroyed the perennial flowers. Farmers live in temporary structures.
Area 5: It took a circuitous route to be able to access this area that has recently been bounded on the west by a major interstate highway. There is also a newly installed park area, complete with pond, benches, and tightly mowed grass. Farmers live in temporary structures and move to higher ground during the monsoon season to wait out the floods in tents. Vegetable crops dominate, but there is some sugarcane. Many farmers have goats or a cow for milk. This is DDA land.
Area 6: This area has been divided by the construction of the metro. It is interspersed with forest, landscape nurseries, roses, and vegetable crops. This area has been more impacted by development than the other areas. Some of this land is DDA owned, and some seems to be privately owned. Farmers informed us that they are not legally allowed to reside on this land, and most of the structures are temporary in nature. It rarely floods.
Area 7: This area has been impacted by highway/metro development and the 2010 Commonwealth Games. Most of the farmers grow vegetable crops because of the seasonal floods. This land is DDA owned and farmers do not permanently reside here. Some farmers have goats or a cow for milk. The soil here is like baby powder underfoot. It is unclear as to whether this is the result of overuse of pesticides/fertilizers or the quality of the floodwater during the monsoon season (or both); however, it is clear that it is low in organic matter.
Area 8: This area is situated just above the Okhla Barrage and outside of the Delhi city limits. It is smaller in land area than the other areas that we visited, and is surrounded by peri-urban development. The land is privately owned, but the farmers here rent from landowners. Flooding is rare, and many live here permanently. This area is also situated to the southeast of the Okhla Water Treatment Plant, which provides a source for irrigation. Part of this area supports a herd of water buffalo, and the rest supports vegetable crops.