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India’s ‘holy’ river succumbs to pollution
July 11, 2017
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VARANASI: India’s holy Ganges begins as a crystal clear river high in the icy Himalayas but pollution and excessive usage transforms it into toxic sludge on its journey through burgeoning cities, industrial hubs and past millions of devotees.

Worshipped by a billion Hindus and a water source for 400 million, “Mother Ganga” is dying, despite decades of government efforts to save it.

Lokesh Sharma, a 19-year-old priest in Devprayag, a small hill town where two rivers converge to form the Ganges, is his family’s fourth generation to lead riverbank prayers.

“I never thought of going somewhere else and settling. Devprayag is a heaven for me. I feel blessed to be born next to Mother Ganges,” Sharma said, as chanting priests and devotees, some bottling the water, dunk themselves in the fast-flowing river.

Thousands of Indians immerse themselves and idols of their gods every day, believing a dip in the Ganges absolves a lifetime of sins. People drink the water and use it for crops.

But the pristine waters soon becomes a distant memory as the 2,525 km-long (1,570 mile) Ganges snakes its way down to the densely populated plains of north India, where too much water is sucked out to maintain a healthy flow.

Sliding under bridges in the industrial city of Kanpur, the water’s colour turns dark grey.

Industrial waste and sewage pour in from open drains, as clouds of foam float on its surface.

At one stretch, the river turns red.

Nearby, tannery workers haul chemical-soaked buffalo hides into huge drums. The filthy run-off is dumped in the river.


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