Over 500 million citizens depend on the River Ganga for life itself, yet our National River remains one of the most polluted in the world, denying vast populations of their rights to water, and robbing the world of the beauty and sanctity of a river that is worshipped by one billion people as divinity itself. Yet, while the problems are numerous, they are not insurmountable. As the problems have been created by humanity, they thus can be remedied by humanity, if the will and focus is there.
Based on the wise inputs of experts and members of Ganga Action Parivar, we suggest three main areas of focus:
1. Restoring ecological flows at every point along the Ganga’s course.
2. Preventing and curtailing all waste water, starting with sewage and industrial waste, from mixing with the river. This especially needs to be prevented along the heavily polluted Kanpur and Varanasi stretches of Ganga.
3. Promoting massive water conservation and water resource management, inclusive of rain water harvesting schemes, at both centralized and decentralized levels within the Ganga River Basin.
We also suggest these three comprehensive solutions:
1. Implementing a detailed legislation that prevents any source of pollution or threats to the health of the national river.
2. Continual stakeholder involvement, including persistent and consistent efforts to implement policies and plans that connect state and local bodies, addressing their challenges and encouraging training and capacity-building programs.
3. Mass awareness campaigns and media-based water eco-consciousness campaigns that get people to not only stop pollution, but to also become an active part of the solution.
Below outlined are key thematic areas of concern as they impact our National River, Mother Ganga, and Her tributaries, such as the Yamuna. Also outlined are solutions that can be implemented for the benefit of all.
Restoration of Flow
Over-extraction and over-exploitation of Ganga’s waters have rendered long stretches of the river completely dry for much of the year.
Industrial Waste Management
Industrial and toxic waste dumped at key stretches along the river leave the river toxic and account for 20% of the pollution.
Water intensive farming and run-off from inorganic farms, including dangerous chemicals like DDT and HDH, further aggravate the threats facing the Ganga River.
Solid Waste Management
Tons of plastic, polythene and other trash are thrown into the Ganga River, choking out life from Her waters and blocking existing sewerage systems.
Various schemes to harvest electricity from Ganga’s waters have destroyed Her ecologically-necessary flows.
Over-siphoning, deforestation, encroachment and other human activities are damaging the fragile ecosystems the Ganga River supports.
Awareness and Education
Spreading the information you learn can help others become more aware and active in preserving and protecting the Ganga River.
Ganga: the run of the river
“Ganga is India’s largest river basin: it covers 26 per cent of the country’s landmass and supports 43 per cent of its population. In 1986, the government of India launched the Ganga Action Plan (GAP). In August 2009, GAP was re-launched with a reconstituted National Ganga River Basin Authority. The objectives in the past 30-odd years have remained the same: to improve the water quality of the river to acceptable standards (defined as bathing water quality standards) by preventing pollution form reaching it – in other words, intercepting the sewage and treating it before discharge[d] into the river. But despite programmes, funds and some attention, the Ganga still runs polluted.”
(Click to enlarge)
From Ganga: The River, It’s Pollution and what we can do to clean it by the Center for Science and Environment briefing paper.
Threats to Ganga’s Lifeline
For ease of understanding the issues and threats to the river basin, we have divided the river system into three main geographical regions along its main course:
1. Upper Ganga Region: the origin of the river in the lap of the Himalayas
2. Middle Ganga Region: the river as it meanders through the plains, where it is the most heavily populated and thereby most polluted stretches
3. Lower Ganga Region: the delta region as the river meets with Ganga Sagar
This diagram helps illustrate the major threats facing India’s National River:
(Click to enlarge)