Sunday, July 20, 2008
Ganga Mata (Mother Ganges)
I was quite appalled when I read the Economist's article about the crappy state of the Ganga (no pun intended). Sewage is being discharged into it without treatment and corpses are flung into the river with religious fervour. Basically, we Indians (esp. Hindus) manage to mess up the river throughout our lives and even after death. The image to the left is from an organisation called the Eco-Friends. They monitor the pollution in the Ganga and have written an admirable report about it. I applaud their efforts.
Do allow me to shock you. The coliform density (density of E.coli bacteria from human intestines) is 12000 times above the safe limit. Last year, 3000 corpses were floating around in the Ganga. This is an illegal practice. Electric crematoria have been set up to avoid this source of pollution. and there are stretches in which the river is actually Black! Millions of Indians are dependent upon this river for their domestic and their spiritual needs. Yes, the situation is indeed ghastly.
The government of India has put in 600 million dollars into the Ganga and the Yamuna, but nothing seems to have transpired yet. The irony is that the government is intent on using electric sewage treatment units. That's a joke in our country of power-cuts. Luckily, no matter how messed up a country is, its gravity usually functions well enough.
That's Mr. Veer Bhadra Mishra's plan. Units that use gravity treatment techniques are cheaper and better options for our country. The scientific Mr. Mishra drinks a glass of turbid, fetid water from the Ganga out of devotion every day. He knows that the water is dangerous and has already suffered from many water-bourne diseases. Less scientific Indians along the Ganga's coast do the same. Doctors tell them to boil the water to make it safer. Think about it, these chaps don't have enough fuel (read cow dung cakes) to make one meal a day. Do you suppose they'll waster their fuel on boiling water? This is why diarrhoea, jaundice, and cholera wreak havoc in our country. Something needs to be done.
One of the few good things that has happened is that the centre has given a directive to the Uttar Pradesh (one of the states of India through which the Ganga flows) govt. to check out Mr. Mishra's proposal. His work had been disrupted previously in 1998 when the sanctions by the US put paid to funding for his experimental gravitational sewage treatment plants. I hope India rallies and supports him. There seems to be light at the end of the tunnel and it's hopefully not the fiery breath of a dragon.
I found a few websites that you may want to look at.
(It's a shame when this happens. Are we Indians as powerless as the electric sewage treatment plants without electricity?)