Its time to face facts. I have some good news and some bad.
Firstly, spanning across the Himalayas in the north, flowing down the mountains and reaching out to the plains in the Bay of Bengal, the Ganges is not only the most sacred river of India but is also one of the greatest rivers in the world.
The bad news is that with over 400 million people living along the Ganges River, the river is also one of the most polluted rivers in the world. The river often called as ‘Ganga Maa’ has become the dumping site for all kinds of waste and pollutants. It is home to sewage from 27 cities along its banks, human ashes, and often corpses of those who cannot afford cremation. The river water is used for washing clothes and animals, for disposal of chemical waste from nearby textile and brass making industries, and solid wastes like plastic bags and ceremonial articles which enter into the river during religious rituals.
The facts about ‘Ganga-Jal’, which is considered sacred can actually scare us as the holy water is no longer the cure for diseases but is the cause of diseases as the count of the fecal coli form bacteria ( a bacteria found in the intestines of the warm-blooded animals whose presence in large numbers indicates pollution by sewage contamination) is up to 3000 times the level acceptable for human beings. People dependent on the river for their drinking needs are often sick with hepatitis, typhoid or cholera.
All this bad news did not happen overnight, it is the consequence of years of negligence, superstitious beliefs and indifferent attitude towards an indispensable natural resource.
Though work has been done in this regard in order to help the river get rid of the unnecessary burden like a few sewage treatment and electric crematorium plants have been built. The NGOs like Sankat Mochan Foundation have played a crucial role and the Government has also implemented promising projects like the Ganga Action Plan (GAP). But, all these efforts fall short as these constitute just a percent or two of the actual efforts needed to bring about the change. The sources of pollution have greatly outnumbered the saviors of the Ganges.
To a large extent the fate of the river is still in our hands, but would take no time in slipping away if the requisite efforts are not put in place. There is an urgent need of timely and efficient actions. Let’s take the responsibility in our own hands. While the Government and NGOs look after the major improvements, we must not hesitate to take the minute steps on our behalf. We being the youth must try to contribute in every possible way.
Small steps to spread awareness would serve a larger purpose. The sins would be washed by doing the right deeds not by taking a dip in the holy river which has become a pool human sin with high level of polluting elements in the water. The youth could volunteer in the ‘Clean Ganga’ drives and offer help to the NGOs by joining them in large numbers in their tasks to restore Ganga’s initial purity. The efforts and enthusiasm won’t go in vain and who knows we might even achieve nirvana in our lifetime contrary to the fact that ashes are thrown in the river to achieve the same.
The Ganges in its original and pure form does seem like a distant dream but to achieve something, you must believe in it and I believe in it.