Water is vital for creatures to survive on Earth. In many religions, water is a symbol of purity, and life. The Ganges has been considered sacred for thousands of years, and is centered at the “cultural ethos” of India, where art and culture truly began to flourish. This belief of the holy river, however, has not made an impact on the over-use, pollution, and abuse of the river. And the problem is only getting worse. This needs to change once and for all.
The Ganges is already one of the most contaminated transboundary rivers in the world, but the levels of pollution are still rising with the newest business boom in India. After being analyzed in a case study, a World Health Organization report found that there are more than “764 identified grossly polluting major industries located directly on the river”(WHO, Sharma), all dumping their waste into the river, leading to coliform bacteria, nitrogen and other pollutants intoxicating it.
The custom of cremating at the river and throwing the remains in it has been performed by millions of Hindus visiting the holy river every year, along the banks of Varanasi. However this custom is extremely unsanitary, enough for the UN to order for India to clean it up. The amount of toxins and dangerous bacteria found in the river are now almost 3,000 times over the limit that the WHO deems as safe. In addition to the 400 million liters of sewage flowing to the river everyday, we also have rotting corpses and ashes of the deceased floating around in a holy river that sustains millions.
A few years ago, Prime Minister Narendra Modi had created the Namami Gange campaign, to help revive the river using a $3 billion budget by 2020. However, this plan is inadequate, for almost a quarter of the budget has been used, and the Ganges has not seen a result. In fact, the country’s bureaucrats have stolen millions in health funds and food subsidies. Aside from corruption, the weakest link in this plan are the local administrators, as most don’t have the skills to manage big projects. There are also far too little of them, for India has only 1/5 of the civil servants/capita that the US has. They’re even considering the bizarre plan of putting flesh-eating turtles into the river.
What really alarms me the most is that there is an efficient way to fix this problem, but authorities are missing it. What we can do now is sign petitions and donate to organizations that are actually trying to help. Push local authorities to make an impact. Spread the word about this ironic dilemma, and give Mother Ganga the respect she deserves.