India has a number of rivers. The Ganges is one of them. It is a Himalayan river. It is generally snow-fed and flows throughout the year. It has two main headwaters in the Himalayas: the Bhagirathi and the Alakananda, the former rising from the Gangotri glacier at Gomukh and the latter from a glacier short of the Alkapuri glacier. Other Himalayan rivers are the Yamuna, Ghagra, Gomti, Gandak and Kosi. The Yamuna rises in the Yamunotri glacier and joins the Ganga at Allahabad. The Ganga is a holy river. It is the symbol of India’s spiritual heritage. It represents the 5,000-year-old civilisation of India. It signifies the synthesis of different religions, races and castes. It sustains nearly one-third of the country’s population. The water of the Ganga is believed to contain miraculous properties of purifying the soul and healing the body. It remains preserved for a long time.
Though the Ganga is regarded as a holy river, it is not free from pollution. As many as 27 large cities and 300 industrial units let their untreated wastes into the Ganga. Since a large number of pilgrims bathe in the Ganga and use its water for drinking purposes, they become prone to water-borne diseases like cholera, typhoid, jaundice, etc. Therefore, the Government of India has drawn up an ambitious Plan of Action to cleanse the holy river Ganga of its pollution. This project was launched by late Mr. Rajiv Gandhi, the then Prime Minister of India, on the banks of the Ganga in Varanasi. The people of Varanasi are emotionally attached to the Ganga. Infact, work on this Project was started at Haridwar. There was a perceptible change in the colour of the Ganga after it was cleaned. After this project is implemented in full, the Ganga River all along its course upto Kolkata is expected to turn pure. For executing this project, a separate authority, called, “The Central Ganga Authority” has been set up. The Authority has hired consultants at two levels. The Thames Authority of the United Kingdom will look after the paining, and Indian consultants will be responsible for monitoring its implementation. The Indian consultants are evolving a comprehensive information system for monitoring the project.
“The Ganga Action Plan for cleansing the river is a step in the right direction.”
Though funds for this project will be provided by the Central Government, its implementation will be the responsibility of the respective States. The States will implement the different segments of the plan from Rishikesh and Hardwar to Patna and Kolkata. The States have embarked on installation of sewage and effluent treatment plants at selected spots.
The Ganga, which is virtually synonymous with Indian civilisation, is dying. Pollution, over-extraction of water, emaciated tributaries and climatic changes are killing the mighty river, on whose fecund plains live one in 12 people of this planet.
Apart from Ganga, Indus, Nile and Yangze are among the 10 most endangered rivers of the world. The Ganga basin makes up almost a third of India’s land area and its rich soil is home to millions of people. However, indiscriminate extraction of water with modern tube wells from the river as well as its basin, coupled with the damming of its tributaries for irrigation, has seriously reduced its flow. Climate change has added to the threat.
Glaciers account for 30 to 40% of water in the Ganga and this goes up to 70-80% in the case of Indus. Studies are required to gauge the impact of melting glaciers on the flow. Apart from humans, many other kinds of lives are in danger due to Ganga’s degeneration. The river is home to more than 140 fish species, 90 amphibian species and the endangered Ganga river dolphin. And Ganga is, of course, sacred to Hindus, besides having spawned many great cities on its banks. Nehru had once said, From her source to the sea, from old times to new, the Ganga is the story of India’s civilisation. The report is a wake-up call not only to save the great river but also this great civilisation.
In reality, these projects can be self-sustaining. Sludge can be used as manure and the water recycled. Fish and other aquatic life in the Ganga can be revived. Once the Ganga is cleaned, tourist spots can be developed along its banks to provide recreation and promote tourism. It will be necessary to ensure that residues of fertiliser and pesticides do not find their way into the Ganga. The sight of the corpses of poor people floating down the Ganga at Varanasi is, to say the least, repulsive. The installation of an electric crematorium could provide a cheaper mode for disposal of dead bodies. Prevention is better than cure. Even after the entire Ganga is cleaned once and made pollution-free, it will be necessary to prevent people from polluting it again. It is, therefore, desirable to educate selected target groups like the industrial, semi-industrial and municipal bodies about the need to keep the Ganga free from any pollution. A law should be enacted so that offenders can be punished for causing pollution.
About the Author
Ashutosh Shukla is pursuing law from NLU, Visakhapatnam, has keen interest in sports especially volleyball and basketball and has represented Uttar Pradesh in Volleyball Nationals. He is a follower of Swami Vivekananda and Former Indian President Dr. APJ Abdul Kalam. His ideology and success mantra is a very famous quote of Swami Vivekananda “Arise, awake and stop not till the goal is reached”. His inspiration for life is his father who is a Police Officer. Ashutosh also aims to crack Civil Services after completion of Law. He is currently pursuing his internship with Alexis Centre for Public Policy and International Relations.