India’s sacred river dying of pollution

The Ganges, the river Hinduism worships as “Ganga Mata” or mother, is suffering from extreme pollution caused by industrialisation and overpopulation.

Earlier this year, the high court in India’s Uttarakhand state had declared the Ganges and Yamuna rivers ‘living entities’ because of the crucial role they play for over 400 million people in the country, who depend on them for food, water and spiritual practices.

However, the court’s decision (later overruled by the Supreme court) wasn’t enough to improve protection of these holy rivers, as activists claim they are ‘ecologically dead’.

The Ganges originates in the Himalayas and stretches over 2,525 km across highly populated regions. As industrial and chemical waste, along with an estimated 4,800 million litres of sewage, pour in from open drains, the water’s colour changes dramatically from blue to grey and even red.

In the holy city of Varanasi, the Ganges is in appalling conditions, with priests, students and residents saying they can’t even bath anymore in the river.

Despite pledges from Prime Minister Narendra Modi to build more treatment plants and move factories away from the river, things are still looking gloomy.

Mirzapur’s priest Ashok Kumar told Reuters, “I feel sad about what’s happening around us. The Ganges is getting dirty day by day but nobody cares. Not even its children. The Ganges is our mother. There won’t be any future if she dies.”

Photo: Matt Zimmermann via Flickr

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