River by Wagon Christ
The Ganges is a trans-boundary river of Asia which flows through India and Bangladesh. The 1,569 mile river rises in the western Himalayas in the Indian state of Uttarakhand, and flows south and east through the Gangetic Plain of North India into Bangladesh, where it empties into the Bay of Bengal. It is the third largest river by discharge.
The Ganges is the most sacred river to Hindus. It is also a lifeline to millions of Indians who live along its course and depend on it for their daily needs. It is worshipped as the goddess Ganga in Hinduism. It has also been important historically, with many former provincial or imperial capitals (such as Pataliputra, Kannauj, Kara, Kashi, Allahabad, Murshidabad, Munger, Baharampur, Kampilya, and Kolkata) located on its banks.
The Ganges was ranked as the fifth most polluted river of the world in 2007.
The World Bank estimates that the health costs of water pollution in India equal three percent of India’s GDP. It has also been suggested that eighty percent of all illnesses in India and one-third of deaths can be attributed to water-borne diseases.
Varanasi, a city of one million people that many pilgrims visit to take a “holy dip” in the Ganges, releases around 200 million litres of untreated human sewage into the river each day, leading to large concentrations of faecal coliform bacteria. According to official standards, water safe for bathing should not contain more than 500 faecal coliforms per 100ml, yet upstream of Varanasi’s ghats the river water already contains 120 times as much, 60,000 faecal coliform bacteria per 100 ml.
After the cremation of the deceased at Varanasi’s ghats the bones and ashes are thrown into the Ganges. However, in the past thousands of uncremated bodies were thrown into the Ganges during cholera epidemics, spreading the disease. Even today, holy men, pregnant women, people with leprosy/chicken pox, people who had been bitten by snakes, people who had committed suicide, the poor, and children under 5 are not cremated at the ghats but are floated free to decompose in the waters. In addition, those who can not afford the large amount of wood needed to incinerate the entire body, leave behind a lot of half burned body parts.
After passing through Varanasi, and receiving 32 streams of raw sewage from the city, the concentration of fecal coliforms in the river’s waters rises from 60,000 to 1.5 million, with observed peak values of 100 million per 100 ml. Drinking and bathing in its waters therefore carries a high risk of infection.