Edited by Sanchita Malhotra, Associate Editor, The Indian Economist
It’s holy, it’s pristine, it’s perennial and probably one of the most celebrated river of all times! Ganga is India’s largest river which emanates from the Himalayas, flows through the northern plains before falling into the Bay of Bengal forming the world’s largest delta. River Ganga is prerequisite for the existence of over 40 crore Indians as it caters to their needs of irrigation. Even mythologically it has been personified as goddess Ganga. Hence, every evening, mobs of thousands of locals and pilgrims, gather in the many renowned Ghats or banks of Ganga to worship her for her existence on their land. These Pujas are carried out with great pomp and show.
But amidst the golden lights showered by the ceremonial diyas and the reverberatory sonorous monologue of the temple bells, resounds the agonous story of Ganga uttered by its continual eastward bound water. The story which complains of the hardships and pains inflicted upon Ganga.
Every day, about 2.9 billion liters of domestic and industrial wastewater is discharged into the river; most of which is untreated. Such extent of sewage water has soured the levels of bacteria and pathogens way beyond the deemed acceptable levels. Many treatment plants have been setup in this regard but their capacity or ability to treat water has always been criticized. As a disgraceful example for the same is the treatment facility in Kanpur which can only cater to the biological waste present in the sewer water but it fails to address the toxic chemicals and industrial scrap.
Another problem is the disposal of solid waste in the river. People have religious sentiments associated with Ganga. Hence various sorts of religious offerings are left afloat in the river channel. Many times these offerings come gift-wrapped with water- proof polythene bags! Needless to say that plastics have devilish effect on the aquatic life.
Walking along the banks of Ganga, one can easily find dead bodies or their remains especially near the cities of Hardwar and Varanasi. It not only leads to aesthetic disgrace but also attracts parasitical animals and flies. Such casual attitude on handling the carcases can spread diseases on a pandemic scale.
All of this calls for intervention both by the government as well as by the awakened citizens of the nation.
Ganga Action Plan initiated by the former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi failed to address any of the issues faced by Ganga. A great deal of money, approximated to about Rs.40, 000 crore according to some reports, literally went to the drains. Many NGO’s have been formed for this cause but they would fail to implement their thoughts without appropriate funding.
A ray of hope seems to arise with the formation of a new government. As the new Ministries and their policies unfurled, a sense of concern for Ganga was expressed. Signs of a practical policy and strict action against defaulters have already earned appreciation in the public domain.
The Central government has unveiled many lucrative policies for Ganga. Some of which involves beautification of Ganga along the major Ghats, construction of multi-purpose terminals, light and sound show to attract tourists and making Ganga efficient for water transportation.
However the Modi-led BJP government will have to brainstorm over the already existing hydro-power dam projects on Ganga still keeping in view the excessive demand of electricity in the nation. Also issues such as natural deviation of Ganga’s flow resulting in decreased water speed and degraded condition of the water bed must be addressed.
The chronic decrease of water levels in Ganga due to factors like global warming and retreat of the Gangotri glacier from its original size have raised questions on Ganga’s survival. Will Ganga become pristine again? Will it remain perennial?
Arjun is currently pursuing Economics (H) from Moti Lal Nehru College, Delhi University. He has a habit to discuss politics and current affairs over the dining table (like most Indians!) He is a loquacious speaker yet an avid listener who loves to chill with friends. He is a debater at heart and desires of travelling long distances. Watching movies and cricket is what he craves for in his free time.
He can be contacted at [email protected]