Monday, January 26, 2009
The Ganga Bleeds.
The Ganges or The Ganga is the holiest river in India. It starts from the himalayas and flows through India as if it were the nerve and vein of the country. And in many ways it is. The shores of the Ganges are a hub for agricultural estabtlishments, the two dams built upon the river are a source of hydro electric power which has brought electricity into many villages and towns lying on its bedside. All these are the additional functions of the river which also serves as a hub to hindu pilgrimages all over the world, both alive and dead.
Varanasi banks of the river are considered to be the most holiest amongst the banks of the river. It is also a crematorium for the hundreds of religiously inclined hindus who wish to die at varanasi and be cremated on its shores. The rituals say that once the body of the deceased is burnt, it's ashes are to be released in Ganga's river waters, the soul is sure to enter through the gateway of heaven. Also according to the religious experts the dead, if either are pregnant women or children, are considered to be in the purest form, both physically and soulfully and the unburnt bodies are floated in the river waters.
In addition to the burnt, and the unburnt remains of humans, the ganges also takes up bodies of livestock too. The permissible water contamination for rivers is 0-500 ppm but the contamination at ganges has eclipsed to about 40,000 ppm. Taking a bath or even a dip(which is considered to be holy in hindu tradition) can bring about advent of multitude of diseases to the likes of dysentry, jaundice, et cetera. The festive time brings about millions of hindus thronging to the holy ganges and millions of lit lamps being allowed to float in it's waters. The burnt ash and tar is just a very small part of the problem. The bigger picture is both elephentaine and gory.
The industrial wastes being let into the ganges are immense in quanity ,and is mostly untreated. An estimate of 1 billion liters of untreated or inefficiently treated wastes is emptied into the river DAILY.The Uttar Pradesh government(the body in question here) should take notice of this high degree of contamination and start taking some measures to prevent any further damage. Although the contamination of the river has become a very serious topic of debate in India and led to the establishment of many NGO's, not much is being done in the direction of attaining the final objective i.e. a permanent solution for deflecting any further toxication. A lot is being said, planned, promised but very less is being done.
A couple of years back the "saints of the shore" revolted against the unhygenic conditions of the waters and urged the government to take efficient steps. They threatned to pull out of a major fair called the "Kumbhmela" which happens once in 14 years, if demands remained un-met. The government complied, temporarily, by doing less than a quarter, of the job it was supposed to do. The fair concluded succesfully on the shores but the waters remain dreaded and "dead" for more reasons than one. As a means of control, the government decided to release some 30,000 turtles into the waters which would help in lessening of the organic waste and the dead body pollution, resulted due to their consumption by these turtles. But the poaching around the shores were un-accounted for and the move hit gravel face first.
The waters of more holy rivers like that of Yamuna, The Brahamaputra, Rameshwaram also suffer from the same fate. With no proper body to regulate and defend the pitiable conditions of these rivers the arrival of the "Unholy War" of the "Holy Rivers" can be seen at the horizon.
"The Ganga, especially, is the river of India, beloved of her people, round which are intertwined her memories, her hopes and fears, her songs of triumph, her victories and her defeats. She has been a symbol of India's age-long culture and civilization, ever changing, ever flowing, and yet ever the same Ganga." Jawaharlal Nehru, First Prime Minister of India, born in Allahabad on the Ganges