I usually stay up in New Tibetan Colony near Majnu Ka Tila whenever I pass through Delhi. I often wander up to the rooftop and look out over the city. The Yamuna River runs through Delhi, and right behind the row of guesthouses and hotels in the area. I began to wonder about the group of people I saw working small plots of land along the river, so this past May I decided to take a closer look.
It turns out that there are several family units who work the land and sell vegetables to the nearby restaurants and markets. The people have been working this land for several generations. Each year the monsoon floods drive them away, but they return in the dry season to grow crops again. Besides the monsoon season, there are other pressures that are sure to change their lives.
The extension of the metro system makes travel to the area from central Delhi a short journey of about 15 minutes. The region is rapidly developing and soon the land on which they farm will likely give way to future development. If this weren’t enough to force these urban farmers from the land, another study will likely do so. The World Health Organization has stated that Delhi is among the world’s most polluted cities, and the land along the Yamuna is saturated with both toxic metals and human waste. These attributes make the vegetables grown in these areas a health risk due to heavy metal contamination.
The people working the land are a resilient people, and should this land undergo development, they are likely to move to other new areas where they can again work the land. It’s a tough life, but the people seem to manage and make the most of the situation. The photos that follow were made during an hour visiting with them.