River

Ganga is the other name of “mother” in India. This river, rising from the Great

Himalayas in the north of the country and draining into the Bay of Bengal in

the east, River Ganga is the biggest, mightiest, and the greatest source of

life for habitants of India since centuries. But exploitation is human nature.

So how long will the purity of river Ganga help us erase our sins and continue

a life of content?

River

Ganga has been considered the purest form of water since the times of our

Purans and Vedas. The holiness of its water is placed at the highest pedestal

of respect in the Indian culture and no sacred occasion happens without the use

of this ‘Ganga jal’. Though these are all religious views, scientists

have been researching on the holiness of the Ganga water for quite some time

now.

Scientists

have found a practical reason for Ganga’s purity – the presence of bacteriophages.

Bacteriophages are viruses that infect and kill bacteria. Be it in the Ganga’s

course or in the human diet, the bacteriophages are responsible for destroying

a variety of life-threatening bacteria. This justifies the holiness of the

river in scientific terms.

However,

using the Ganges waters for multiple domestic and industrial purposes have

unfavourably impacted its purity. Washing, cleaning, batching are the 3 main

human sources of polluting the river. Soap, detergent, and other contaminants

drain into the river to cause hypoxia, that is, a decrease in the

oxygen level of water and leads to a condition termed as eutrophication.

Under such circumstances, the aquatic plant life is endangered, consequently

endangering aquatic animal life too. The entire aquatic ecosystem is left

exposed to imbalance, death, and decay.

Draining

industrial wastes is another major source of pollution in the Ganga. With

numerous factories emanating toxic wastes from their production and releasing

it into the waters of the river, the nutrient level of the water becomes

detrimental to the underwater life. Excessive sedimentation and rising of the

riverbed, leading to loss of aquatic life, overflowing riverbanks, and

flooding.

The

plastic pollution in these waters has time and again threatened the ecosystem

and has led to endangering and extinction of aquatic species which were so long

only found in particular habitats of the Ganga. The Ganges river

dolphin is one of the very few freshwater dolphin species in the

world which have been declared endangered a few years back. The Ganges

softshell turtle is one such species of turtle that only inhabits

certain habitats in the course of Ganga but are now prone to extinction due to

extreme change in the ecology and geography of the river. The metal

contamination and reduced oxygen in the water have also led to significant loss

of aquatic plants, even vegetation like the Mangrove, which

are directly dependent on the Ganges water and its composition for their

survival.

Metal

contamination of the Ganga water has led to severe diseases in many of the cities

that depend upon it. The Arsenic pollution in Bengal’s groundwater a few years

back created brought a wave of fear in the localities due to mass arsenic-borne

disease spreading among both young and adults. Similar has been the condition

of other Indian states whose regular water resource is solely dependent upon

the Ganga. Toxicity of the water from heavy metal pollutants, many of which are

potentially chronic, have shown to develop retardation, kidney damage,

lung damage, liver damage, neurotoxicity, bone brittleness and even death in

affected people. Not only humans, but domestic animals like cattle etc. are

equally endangered through direct consumption of the Ganges water.

Over

the years, the Indian Governement has proposed and taken up multiple actions to

curb the increasing water pollution in the Ganges. Some of the most significant

ones are –

  1. Ganges Action Plan (1986)
  2. National River Ganga Basin Authority (NRGBA)

    (2009)

  3. 2010 Government clean-up campaign (2010)
  4. Namami Gange Programme (2014)

"Efforts

can be lauded but certain other measures including public participation and

managing agricultural waste generated after using pesticides are also required.

The government had planned to clean the river by 2020 but it cannot be achieved

till 2025," said environmental activist and lawyer Vikrant Tongad in an

interview regarding the condition of the river.

It is for all of us to remember as responsible citizens that the Government alone cannot clean up the river. It is us, our daily habits, and our knowledge of the derogatory consequences of our actions, which will help to bring back the purity of the River Ganga. Disposal of domestic wastes, overexploitation of the river water, efficient processing of the urban waste, and industrial waste mismanagement are some of the key sectors that require attention from not only the governing bodies but each citizen of the country. After all, it is one nation, one aim, and one life! Let us contribute towards restoring the true purity of this source of life through awareness and education at least, if not more.

@theearthview