Friday 24 August 2012

Sustainability of River Ganga - A Campaign

Ganga devotees
A devotee offering prayers in Ganga
The mighty Ganges is undoubtedly the enduring lifeline of India. Traversing a distance of over 2500 km across five populous Indian states, it provides a perennial  source of irrigation and drinking water. However, it is the symbolic and religious importance of Ganga that has attracted its followers since ages.

Megasthenes, a European traveler, was the first to report about this river in 350-290 BC. Though there are other great rivers in the world such as the Nile, Hwang Ho, Amazon and Brahmaputra that are broader and longer, the Ganga has won the admiration of many due to its mystical charm. For millions of years the Ganga has been worshiped for its divine powers. Its waters are considered sacred and find place in many religious Hindu customs.

What should be done to stop Ganga from dying?

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Gomukh Glacier: The Origin of River Ganga
As an eternal source of inspiration, the Ganga during its meandering course, symbolizes purity of soul, the power of change and a resilience to face challenges. Its turbulent journey from the Gangotri in the Himalayas transforms into a serene flow in the flatter plains of North India - a change that has been the motivation for poetic endeavors. Renowned Indian poets have personified these varying moods of Ganga into various shades of life. 

From cradle to grave, this river has an integral role to play in many customs and traditions of people of India.  Spiritually, it connects people across the country through various festive occasions. The Kumbh mela, a once-in-a-decade event draws millions of people not only from India but from across the world to take a dip in the holy river to atone for their sins and seek blessings from Goddess Ganga and subsequently salvation.

Ganga is central to Indian culture. Weaving the diverse communities divided by social statuses and economic strengths, it has given its devotees many a reason to believe in traditional Indian values. The mythology behind its origin revolves around the unrelenting efforts of Bhagirath to please Lord Shiva, the Supreme God, to let Goddess Ganga descend to the Earth to provide much needed succor to the water-thirsty regions. The river Ganga is still held high and revered for this act of gratitude. 

Aarti (evening prayers) at Varanasi
Such has been the influence of this mighty river that imagining life without it would be next to impossible for millions of pilgrims who throng cities of Rishikesh, Haridwar and Allahabad to seek 'moksha', the final extrication of the soul.

However, over the years, economic development has led to serious damage to the river. Climate change has threatened the very source of Ganga - the Gangotri glacier - which now gets lesser snowfall and has a faster rate of melting ice. Construction of dams in the upper reaches have caused irreparable damage to ecology. Pollution and other environment unfriendly activities along its course in the plains have destroyed the purity that was once unflinchingly symbolized by the Ganga.

Many of us may not like to believe that this is true and might still like to cling to our notion that Ganga is still the same. Statistical data tells us that if the current state of construction and pollution carries on, we might not be able to see the river by 2050. Reasons? first, due to climate change, the river is fed by lesser amount of water; second, because of construction of dams, the river is meandering away from its natural course causing havoc in lower regions; third (and most vital), industrial pollution and dumping of municipal wastes is already choking the river with toxic chemicals.

A Naga Baba arriving at Prayag for holy dip
2013 is the year of Mahakumbh - a 58 day congregation of believers in the powers of Ganga. Millions of devotees are expected to take bath on auspicious days. The state government of Uttar Pradesh is already busy making elaborate arrangements in the city of Prayag Raj (Allahabad) where this huge floating population would surge during the chilly winter months of January and February.

Despite such a huge response to events of religious and spiritual significance, the efforts to clean the river have somehow been far from satisfactory. Some NGOs are working relentlessly and have attained limited success but much needs to be done to make a noticeable difference. What is at stake is the sustainability of Ganga river itself that seems to be on low priority for some reasons.

Despite no wavering of faith in its believers, pollution in river Ganga is a burning issue that needs a urgent call for action. has taken the issue of "Sustainability of River Ganga"  to provide a platform to share your views, expert opinions, NGO initiatives so that innovative ideas and success stories can be communicated to a larger audience. We connect across students, campaigners, experts, policy makers to address this issue. For us what is more important is to build an awareness among general public through our online campaign. 

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What should be done to stop Ganga from dying?

Tell Us Your Views on Thoughts on Brew

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