Saving the Ganga: A Challenge of Epic Proportions

Saving the Ganga: A Challenge of Epic Proportions

According to ancient Hindu legends, it is during the end of Kaliyuga that the holy river Ganga will finally dry up. According to scientists, it is the impact of man's destructive actions which are destroying one of the longest rivers in the world. Either which ways, the Ganga is doomed to extinction sooner if not later. Ganga known in ancient Hindu mythology as the only river to exist in all 3 worlds, may soon cease to exist in our country. The desecration of this river is absolute. Successive Indian governments have tried to cleanse the river. All of them have failed.

Whether this one proves to be a winner when it comes to protecting the holy river remains to be seen. According to Hindu legend, it was Ganga's eighth child who played a leading role in the epic Mahabharata and finally met with a tragic end on a bed of arrows. The tributaries of this mighty river may meet with a tragic end too, if authorities do not take decisive actions. Ambitious plans have been proposed by men but disposed by teeming throngs of people who throw plastic, solid waste and rubbish into this already choked river.

India under the newly-elected Modi government is now taking on the challenge to save the Ganga. It is only right that the saffron party be faced with this task after electoral promises to do so. Crores of rupees have been poured into efforts to save the river. The World Bank has gone so far as to term the Ganga clean-up as a “high-risk” project. Untreated sewerage is dumped into the river along with industrial effluents. It is ironical that a river which is considered holy by the Hindus is defiled daily with excreta, poisonous fertilisers and pesticides and all kinds of household wastes. If a river is worshipped, is it right to unleash tonnes of plastic bags containing garlands and plastic clay idols into it in the name of religion?

About 20,000 crore rupees have been spent on cleaning this river. Action plans have come and gone. From GAP (Ganga Action Plan) to YAP(Yamuna Action Plan), the authorities who have made big claims cannot bridge the divide between promises and reality. According to Bharat Lal Seth, South Asia Program Coordinator for International Rivers who recently spoke to members of the press, the game changers could be unconventional technologies and non-mechanised systems of treating waste. This includes oxidation ponds and duckweed ponds.

Transporting sewage is not energy or capital efficient, according to the experts. Dr. B.D. Tripathi from the Banaras Hindu University has also talked about the 3 R problems namely reduced water carrying capacity, quality and water flow. The sewage and solid waste is causing silt accumulation which is reducing the water carrying capacity of the river. All in all, the destructive cycle is complete. The diversion of water at the 3 canals of Bijnor, Narora and Haridwar reduce the water flow. Centre State conflicts have also hampered the clean-up of this river.

Whether we chose to rely on mythology or cold hard facts, the fate of the Ganga seems to be sealed. Perhaps the river was meant to perish. But along with it, so will many lives and livelihoods. This is a world where actions have power and good karma can undo the evil. Conservation, non-conventional methods and clean-up must be the 3 leading mantras if the Ganga has to be saved from its fatal end.
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