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?
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
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.
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.
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
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
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.
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 –
- Ganges Action Plan (1986)
- National River Ganga Basin Authority (NRGBA)
- 2010 Government clean-up campaign (2010)
- Namami Gange Programme (2014)
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.