What will happen if ever Ganga dies?
By Vijay Darda
There was a river called Saraswati. It vanished 4,000 years ago. It used to flow in the regions of Haryana, Punjab and Rajasthan. Nobody knows how it vanished but our faith towards the river is so strong that even today people believe that Saraswati river flows under the ground and goes to Allahabad and meets Ganga and Yamuna. That is why the place is called ‘Sangam’. Scientists have tried to explore the pathway of Saraswati and there was a lot of hullabaloo a few years back that the river would be revived, but nothing notable happened!
This is the story of a river which has no visible presence. The important question is what are we doing to save the river whose existence is obvious to us, which is slowly inching towards extinction? Many rivers in the country are on the verge of dying or have died completely. Small local rivers have transformed into rainy season streams. There are many big plans to speak of, tranches of money are also being spent, paperwork is also being executed but the condition of the rivers is not improving.
The biggest concern of the time is the deterioration of the river Ganga. It travels a distance of more than 2,500 kilometres, including 2,071 kilometres in India and the rest in Bangladesh. The area of about 10 lakh square kilometres in India is called Gangetic plains. The Ganga irrigates this vast terrain and makes it suitable for crops. It also quenches the thirst of millions of people settled on its banks. This river is considered best among the rivers in the entire world because it’s water has natural bacteriophage virus, which has the capacity to eliminate bacteria and other harmful micro-organisms. For this reason, this river is called the lifeline.
But unfortunately, the Ganga, after Haridwar, has become so polluted that its water has neither remained potable nor suitable for bathing. In July this year, the National Green Tribunal (NGT) carried out an investigation on the quality of water and reported that the water between Haridwar and Unnao is not fit for consumption and bathing. Imagine the condition beyond Unnao where the river is even more polluted! The NGT clearly stated that gullible people drink water from the river and take bath in it, but they do not know that it can have a harmful effect on their health. If a legal warning can be written on cigarette packets, why should the common man not be informed about the river water being injurious to health? The NGT instructed the National Clean Ganga Mission to set up a notice board at every hundred kilometres on which it should be written whether the river water is suitable for drinking and bathing.
I have seen the clean Ganga with its crystal clear water in my childhood. I have seen the confluence at Allahabad, as also the ghats of Banaras. Now when I look at this river, I feel a wave of trepidation passing through me. The Ganga which gave the man an opportunity to develop life on its banks, the same man has brought it on the verge of extinction. People living on its banks not only throw garbage into it but have also diverted nullahs to drain dirty water into it. Factories started flowing industrial waste and harmful effluents into it. When a lot of hue and cry was raised, some factories were closed down but it is estimated that still 2.90 crore litres of waste is released in the Ganga daily.
Scientists have made it clear that Ganga is sick. Biological oxygen levels should be 3 degrees which has increased to 6 degrees. On the other hand, the warm atmosphere has also influenced the Ganga. A UN report released in 2007 stated that the glacier which supplies water to Ganga can be become extinct by 2030. So the situation is really alarming.
Therefore, the question that comes to mind is, is our system worried about this great river? I don’t think so. Those who are fighting for restoring the glory of the Ganga are not being heard. The neglect is clearly visible. Known as Gangaputra, Prof G D Agrawal continued his fast for 111 days to draw attention of the powers-that-be to the plight of the Ganga, but no one paid attention to him or his mission. He sacrificed his life for the Ganga. It is surprising that there was no hue and cry over his death. It seems that the rivers are not in our priority list. Everyone should understand that if Ganga dies, it will be fatal for the entire country because the Ganga also supports many regional rivers. The Yamuna has almost died. Save the Ganga at least!
One more thing I would like to state is that rivers are the very basis of life of any country. I keep visiting many countries of the world and I have seen that rivers flowing within the cities are so clean and clear that their bottom is visible to the naked eye. The whole country appears dedicated to the protection of rivers in America, England, Russia or any other country. So why are we neglecting our duty towards the rivers? The rivers are also a large medium of transport. Nearly 35 per cent of the world’s transportation is carried out through water.
The Ganga used to witness a lot of transportation activity earlier but the same has stopped completely now. The Union surface transport, highways, shipping, water resources, river development and Ganga rejuvenation minister Nitin Gadkari has tried a lot but due to his preoccupation with a variety of other works and responsibilities, he cannot devote much time to this project. Let us hope Nitin Gadkari’s dream of clean Ganga comes true.
Vijay Darda has been the chief visionary and driving force behind Lokmat, a leading multi-platform media company. He is a recipient of several prestigious awards including the Feroze Gandhi Memorial Award for excellence in journalism in 1990-91.
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