The Ganga is dubbed as the most sacred of all rivers on the planet. It is not too hard t understand why. If divinity is all about providing man with sustenance and resources and a livelihood to survive, then few on the planet ever match to the Ganges.
Flowing across 2,525 kilometers, it touches the lives of over 500 million people and has been enriching their lives for several thousand years now.
In the process, the river itself has lost a lot of sheen and has turned into a polluted mess.
The latest Indian government under Narendra Modi has promised the world, ahead of the elections by stating that they will aggressively pursue the cleaning up of the Ganga.
Uma Bharti under a separate ministry for river development and Ganga rejuvenation has already started part of the process. But is it really possible to clean up the Ganges?
For starters, as the table comparing Ganga to European rivers showcases, the sacred river touches way too many lives to really keep a check on it in a complete fashion.
And this is the crux of the problem that has engulfed Ganga. From Haridwar to Bengal, how do you check the pollutants that enter the system?
And it is not just the industrial pollutants that we talk about. The millions and millions of pilgrims on its shores, the household usage of the river, the agricultural lands that it irrigates, the hydroelectric plants upstream and the open funerals on its banks; Ganga is plagued by one problem – human beings.
While rivers naturally cleanse themselves with new influx of water, the water flow and capacity have fallen significantly in the last two decades according to Dr BD Tripathi, a professor at the Banaras Hindu University, and a member of National Ganga River Basin Authority (NGRBA). Add to this a massive increase in the pollutants and Ganga is getting choked in every possible manner!
Several projects undertaken to clean the Ganga also get caught in State-Centre conflicts. But is cleaning really the solution?
Even conservative estimates to clean up the river tell that government requires at least 40 years of intensive management and over 200 billion rupees! Past fiscal and political trends suggest that this simply unlikely, if not impossible.