Ganga, one of the oldest river serving a large population of human as well as animal species from the ancient times, now is in need of our help. One of the most precious river, serving almost 40 percent of the population of India, is now considered as the fifth most polluted river in the world. It is questionable that the expense of crores failed to clean Ganga even by percent. It is significant to know that, even giving “living status” to Ganga, failed to bring any effective or desirable result. There is not a single cause for the pollution of river Ganga but numerous causes are present. Politically, nothing is lacking in regards to the allocation of funds, drafting plans and implementation but the social picture is different. Socially, intentionally or unintentionally people are extremely polluting it on the name of traditional and ritual practices.
The issue of pollution of river Ganga is not something new but it has been an old process. There is a need to rethink of the causes, reasons, and sources which is contributing to the hazardous condition of the Ganga. A number of initiatives have been taken to clean Ganga but failed to fulfill the aim. Not only this but many plans including the famous Ganga Action Plan (1985), National River Ganga Basin Authority (2009), etc have been implemented in order to save it. Almost two thousand crores invested under such plans. Although many say that these plans are successful but the ground reality observed, is different from it.
There have been many types of research and works done on the issue of Ganga pollution. One of the studies conducted is by Danish Siddiqui on ‘Dying “Mother Ganga”: India’s holy river succumbs to pollution’. He in his study exclaims that Ganga river is not merely a source of water in the ordinary sense but also it is worshipped by billions of Hindus. Lakhs of people even use the same water for drinking and crop yielding. Untreated industrial wastes, direct sewage pour, toxic chemicals, etc are greatly polluting river Ganga. The worst condition among all is found in Varanasi which is the holy city for Hindus. He has also talked about Kolkata, where maximum population uses the Ganga water for various activities including brushing teeth, bathing, washing clothes etc. He says that Ganga is our mother and livelihood for a large population. There won’t be any future without her.
Nowadays the Ganga river is no less than a city dump. Countless textile mills, fertilizers, pesticides, hospitals, etc dump tonnes of waste into it which is making river Ganga no less than poison. Not only this but rivers including Yamuna, kaali, etc also merge with Ganga and add a large amount of pollutant to it. Dams, in this context, are another core source of pollution which obstruct the flow of Ganga. Toxic chemicals present in the river affect the aquatic life harshly. Ganga has now become an unliveable for the species. There are several species which are vanishing due to pollution, as Ganga does not provide life merely to the people but also to various animals.
Data reveals that seven thousand crores were spent in two years in order to clean Ganga, but the question here arises is that where this much amount vanished and where is the result? In this regard, Green Tribunal said, “not a single drop of Ganga has been cleaned.“
In this context, one of the rising names is of GD Agrawal. He recently died on 11th October’18, demanding promise from Central Government for the protection of river Ganga. One of the articles by Sanskriti Talwar on ‘Tracing GD Agrawal’s struggle to save Ganga’, explains about his struggle, where he was on fast since June 22. He has been engaged in various strikes since 2008, demanding assurance from Central Government for the protection of river Ganga. He even fought for the construction of Dams, but in the end, his demand remained unfulfilled and he left his struggle in between.
‘Dirty flows the Ganga’ by Raghu Dayal. In his article, he pointed out the promises made by our honorable Prime Minister Narendra Modi, where Modi has promised to clean Ganga. Research has found that one-fourth of the pollution of Ganga is contributed by city Varanasi. Raghu Dayal also counted Patna, Kolkata, as cities polluting Ganga by means of generating waste material, wastes dumped by brick and sand mining industries, etc. Unfortunately, a data showed that Ganga affects the lives of four hundred fifty million people in economic and emotional terms. This is a sad reality that one-fourth of the pollution of Ganga is provided by municipal sewage from not only towns but cities also. It cannot be simply stated that only villages or towns are the reason for the pollution but metropolitan cities also affect the river, as the number of small and large scale industries are increasing rapidly. It can be seen that every part of population, region, or community is contributing equally towards pollution, by the one way or the other.
Moving further, in his article ‘Cleaning the Ganga River’, Vijay Jagannathan has talked about the failure of past efforts in the cleaning of Ganga and the need for the regeneration of the river by a bottom-up approach. He has talked about Ganga Action Plan which has motives such as investment in sewer lines, new methods of burning the dead body in order to prevent the disposal of ashes in the river and the beautification of ghats to preserve the culture. But still Ganga Action Plan faced failure due to the various reasons. Then it was felt that there is need of the better performance of state administrations. One of the step taken was that of ‘swachcha bharat mission by Narendra Modi. There was also a need to preserve the culture and built heritage. Vijay Jagannathan focused on the point that there is a need of a bottom-up approach which would involve people from the local level, communities, etc. The financial power should not be in the hands of higher authority solely, but the participation of lower level would also be helpful.
There is a need and it is the responsibility of citizens to prove Ganga as our mother. Constant disposal of a huge amount of flowers, ashes, etc into the river cannot be merely named as a ritual practice while on another side it is leading to pollution as well. Rather, rationality exists in not letting the river polluted by any means and that would be better called as a ritual practice. This is a very sad reality of the present time that even after the expenditure of crores of rupees to clean Ganga, the result of it is nowhere. We cannot simply put blame on government, because pollution of Ganga is not merely the responsibility of government or a single state or a particular community but it is a social issue which needs the contribution and participation of common people as well.
We should not also forget about one of the dangerous ritual practice which is the immersion of big statues of god and goddess in the river. These statues not only pollute the river, by the material they are made up of but, also with colors which consist of toxic chemicals. Although, nowadays such statues are immersed in rivers which are biodegradable and are nature- friendly. But the point is, that most of the people are unaware of these nature-friendly statues.
Social media plays a great role here, as it is a means to reach the population and make them aware of social issues such as Ganga pollution. In the expansion of any social movement, social media plays a crucial role and leads to more and more participation of youths as well. On this serious issue, it is not acceptable to always play a blame game. Hence, it should be the responsibility of each and every individual to take some initiative by his/her side, in order to bring a drastic change.
- ‘Dying “Mother Ganga”: India’s holy river succumbs to pollution’ by Danish
- ‘Tracing GD Agrawal’s struggle to save Ganga by Sanskriti Talwar
- Kundu, “Impact of Tourism on the Economy and Environment: A Case Study on Nabadwip Town in Nadia District of West Bengal, India.”
- Cleaning the Ganga River: What Needs To Be Done Differently – EPW
Rishika Prajapati, Studying BA(Hons.) Sociology at Delhi University.