The Ganges is one of the major rivers of the Indian subcontinent, flowing east through the Gangetic Plain of northern India into Bangladesh. The 2,510 km (1,560 mi) river rises in the western Himalayas in the Uttarakhand state of India, and drains into the Sunderbans delta in the Bay of Bengal. It has long been considered a holy river by Hindus and worshiped as the goddess Ganga in Hinduism. It has also been important historically: many former provincial or imperial capitals (such as Patliputra, Kannauj, Kara, Allahabad, Murshidabad,and Calcutta) have been located on its banks. The Ganges Basin drains 1,000,000-square-kilometre (390,000 sq mi) and supports one of the world`s highest densities of humans. The average depth of the river is 52 feet (16 m), and the maximum depth, 100 feet (30 m). The river has been declared as India`s National River. The many symbolic meanings of the river on the Indian subcontinent were spoken to in 1946 by Jawaharlal Nehru in his Discovery of India, The Ganges, above all is the river of India, which has held India`s heart captive and drawn uncounted millions to her banks since the dawn of history.
The story of the Ganges, from her source to the sea, from old times to new, is the story of India`s civilization and culture, of the rise and fall of empires, of great and proud cities, of adventures of man. Although many small streams comprise the headwaters of the Ganges, the six longest headstreams and their five confluences are given both cultural and geographical emphasis (see the map showing the headwaters of the river). The Alaknanda River meets the Dhauliganga River at Vishnuprayag, the Nandakini River at Nandprayag, the Pindar River at Karnaprayag, and the Mandakini River at Rudraprayag and finally the Bhagirathi River at Devprayag, to form the mainstream, the Ganges. The Bhagirathi is the source stream; it rises at the foot of Gangotri Glacier, at Gaumukh, at an elevation of 3,892 m (12,769 ft).
The headwaters of the Alaknanda are formed by snowmelt from such peaks as Nanda Devi, Trisul, and Kamet. Ganga River is also said to be the river of supreme Lord Rama and also called “Ram Ganga” as there is a belief Lord Rama promised while Ganges emerged from his feet that, when He will appear on earth as Lord Rama will reside on the banks of Ganga and her tributaries. Lord Ram then appeared in Ayodhya which is on the banks of Saryu Ganga River, when he went to Janakpuri he crossed River Ganga in Haridwar.
During his 14 years exile from Sita, his wife and brother Lakshmana after leaving Ayodhya his first night stay was at Tamsa River (Ganga tributaries), his second stay was at Shrungverpur which is on the banks of Ganga and with the help of Nishadraj Gruh and Kevat he crossed Ganga, he then went to Triveni sangam, Prayag Raj stayed with Muni Bharadvaj and then marched towards Chitrakoot and stayed there for 11 and half years on Kamadgiri parvat on the banks of Mandakini, holy stream. From there he went to Panchvati and stayed on the bank of Godavari until his wife sitaji was abducted by demon king Ravana. The search for his beloved wife Sita, Lord Rama went to Rameshwaram, as it is said all rivers meet the ocean.
Pollution in Ganga River
Today, over 29 cities, 70 towns, and thousands of villages extend along the Ganga banks. Nearly all of their sewage – over 1.3 billion liters per day – goes directly into the river, along with thousands of animal carcasses, mainly cattle. Another 260 million liters of industrial waste are added to this by hundreds of factories along the rivers banks. Municipal sewage constitutes 80 per cent by volume of the total waste dumped into the Ganga, and industries contribute about 15 percent. The majority of the Ganga pollution is organic waste, sewage, trash, food, and human and animal remains. Over the past century, city populations along the Ganga have grown at a tremendous rate, while waste-control infrastructure has remained relatively unchanged. Recent water samples collected in Varanasi revealed fecal-coliform counts of about 50,000 bacteria per 100 milliliters of water, 10,000% higher than the government standard for safe river bathing. The result of this pollution is an array of water-borne diseases including cholera, hepatitis, typhoid and amoebic dysentery.
An estimated 80% of all health problems and one-third of deaths in India are attributable to water-borne diseases. The sacred practice of depositing human remains in the Ganga also poses health threats because of the unsustainable rate at which partially cremated cadavers are dumped. In Varanasi, some 40,000 cremations are performed each year, most on wood pyres that do not completely consume the body. Along with the remains of these traditional funerals, there are thousands more who cannot afford cremation and whose bodies are simply thrown into the Ganga. In addition, the carcasses of thousands of dead cattle, which are sacred to Hindus, go into the river each year. An inadequate cremation procedures contributes to a large number of partially burnt or unburnt corpses floating down the Ganga. Hundreds of corpses burn on the line of wooden pyres. Soot-covered men bustle about, raking in the still-glowing ashes, sweeping them into the river.
Gray dust from the pyres floats atop the waves, mixing with flower garlands and foam. The dust and debris resurfaces some distance away, this time, intermixed with polythene bags, empty cans and dirty clothes. This is the holy Ganga at its holiest spot Varanasi. The industrial pollutants also a major source of contamination in the Ganga. A total of 146 industries are reported to be located along the river Ganga between Rishikesh and Prayagraj. 144 of these are in Uttar Pradesh (U.P.) and 2 in Uttrakhand. The major polluting industries on the Ganga are the leather industries, especially near Kanpur, which use large amounts of Chromium and other toxic chemical waste, and much of it finds its way into the meager flow of the Ganga. From the plains to the sea, pharmaceutical companies, electronics plants, textile and paper industries, tanneries, fertilizer manufacturers and oil refineries discharge effluent into the river.
This hazardous waste includes hydrochloric acid, mercury and other heavy metals, bleaches and dyes, pesticides, and polychlorinated biphenyls highly toxic compounds that accumulate in animal and human tissue. The tannery industry mushrooming in North India has converted the Ganga River into a dumping ground. The tanning industry discharges different types of waste into the environment, primarily in the form of liquid effluents containing organic matters, chromium, sulphide ammonium and other salts. According to the information obtained from the UP State Pollution Control Board, there are 402 tanneries operating in the city Kanpur of which 65 were closed On September 17, 2010 issuing notices to 253 tanneries operating in the city, the State Pollution Control Board has asked them to comply with central norms to curb pollution within 15 days or face consequences. A division bench of the Allahabad high court on January 19, 2011 asked UP chief secretary, who was present in the court, to file an affidavit about the action taken against those who were found involved in polluting river Ganga.
The bench will now hear this case on February 14, next. The bench expressed concerned over the pollution in river Ganga and said that at Sangam in Allahabad river Ganga is dirty and its colour is brown. Ganga is getting polluted day-by-day. Nearly 170 factories and tanneries located between Kannauj and Varanasi, covering an area of 450 km, were found responsible for polluting the river by discharging wastes into it without treatment,” Union Minister for Environment and Forests Jairam Ramesh told reporters on August 28, 2010. “The government will issue show cause notices to these industrial units on August 30 and if they fail to take any action within 15 days, steps would be initiated to shut them,” he said. In 1996, the Supreme Court had banned the discharge of effluents from various tanneries and factories located on its banks in Kanpur. However, industry is not the only source of pollution. Sheer volume of waste – estimated at nearly 1 billion litres per day – of mostly untreated raw sewage – is a significant factor.
Runoff from farms in the Ganga basin adds chemical fertilizers and pesticides such as DDT, which is banned in the United States because of its toxic and carcinogenic effects on humans and wildlife. Damming the river or diverting its water, mainly for irrigation purposes, also adds to the pollution crisis. Atmospheric deposition of heavy metals emitted from vehicles and presence of industrial units adjoining the Ganges is adding to the pollution load on the river, researchers have found on May 2010. Decades-long efforts by the government to breathe life into Ganga through massive clean-up programmes have come to naught. Consider this: Over Rs 1,000 crore have been pumped into the Ganga Action Plan I and II between 1985 and 2000, but Indias holiest river is still sullied.
Discharge of untreated wastewater from towns along Ganga constitutes the major source of pollution load for the river. Against the estimated wastewater generation of around 3000 million liters per day (mld) from towns along the river Ganga, sewage treatment capacity of 1025 mld has been created so far under the Ganga Action Plan. This information was given by the Minister of State for Environment and Forests(Independent Charge) Shri Jairam Ramesh in Rajya Sabha on August 02, 2010.
The incidence of gall bladder disease is high among people living near the Ganga and its tributaries, says the largest-ever study of the local population over six years.A team of doctors from Mumbai conducted the study and found high concentrations of heavy metals in the water and soil of 60 villages along the Indo-Gangetic plains that could be contributing to the disease. The study was published last week of January 2011 in the online edition of HPB, the official journal of the International Hepato-Pancreato-Biliary Association. It has identified eight villages in Bihar’s Vaishali district, located near the river Gandak, with an unusually high rate of gall bladder disease.