The Mysteries of the Sacred Ganges: A Modern Saga

Dive into the rich history and significance of the Ganges River, a cultural icon deeply interwoven with the fabric of Indian society. From the colonial-era cholera outbreaks to the current challenges of industrialization and urbanization, the Ganges has weathered a tumultuous journey, reflecting the evolving landscape of modern India.

Once hailed as a lifeline, the Ganges now faces a grave threat due to accelerating modernization, leading to alarming levels of pollution and degradation. Despite its vital role as South Asia’s lifeline, the river’s waters bear witness to the toll of rapid development on its pristine purity.

As we navigate the complexities of pollution and governance along the Ganges, the Indian government’s efforts to manage the river basin and launch national projects highlight a commitment to preserving this natural heritage. Yet, challenges persist, from inadequate infrastructure to the inefficiencies in pollution control measures, underscoring the uphill battle to restore the Ganges to its former glory.

The repercussions of pollution extend beyond ecological concerns, impacting the health of riverside communities and tarnishing the region’s tourism and spiritual practices. It’s a poignant reminder of the delicate balance between progress and preservation, urging us to revere and protect the sacred waters of the Ganges for generations to come.

In 1854, it was the golden age of the empire on which the sun never set, but London, the heart of the empire, was attacked by the microbial kingdom! ——Cholera is coming! From the lords in Westminster to the child laborers in sweatshops, they all fell into mass panic, fearing that they would be the next to die.

It wasn’t until John Snow, the father of modern public health, discovered that water sources were the key to the spread of cholera, and the British filled up contaminated wells one after another that the cholera was suppressed.

At that time, the bacteria that caused cholera came from the Ganges River Basin in British India. The British were surprised to find that although cholera broke out from time to time in the densely populated Ganges River Basin, it was always a small incident.

Later, British biologists discovered a new type of virus in the Ganges River – bacteriophages. It was they that eliminated Vibrio cholerae. If Indians are infected with cholera, just take a dip in the Ganges River. It is really clean. It’s hygienic, and it’s like Lord Shiva’s body protection. If the British knew about this miraculous effect earlier, they could really transport a batch of Ganges water to support London’s fight against the epidemic.

More than 100 years later, today’s Ganges water is still famous around the world for being “clean and hygienic”. Indians still insist on going down to the river to treat diseases and eliminate disasters, but now the Ganges water is more medicinal than before. Even the Indian people, who have been tested for a long time, cannot bear it. All kinds of tough-talking Indian officials are immediately addicted after taking a sip. Sent to hospital.

From a great health river that protects Indians, it has become a sewage river that overwhelms Indians. What happened to the Ganges River in the past hundred years?

 “River of the Periodic Table of Elements”

The Ganges River is the largest river in South Asia and the mother river of the entire northern India. Its annual runoff is more than seven times that of the Yellow River. Coupled with abundant monsoon precipitation, it provides a very high population carrying capacity. There are more than 600 million Indians living in the entire Ganges Plain. If Bangladesh in the delta is included, the number is close to 800 million. This is only one part of the world.

Generally speaking, the greater the flow of a river, the stronger its self-cleaning ability. After all, more water can wash away pollutants and dilute them. What’s more, there are also various microorganisms such as phages in the Ganges to help, and the ability is even higher.

But the greater the ability, the heavier the KPI. The self-purification ability of the Ganges River allows humans to pollute with confidence and boldness. Just like Indians who can endure hardships tend to endure more hardships, the powerful Ganges River is becoming more and more ” “Clean and hygienic”. Everyone knows that the Ganges is dirty, but how dirty it is depends on data.

We generally use the “fecal coliform” indicator to measure the degree of fecal contamination of water bodies. In my country’s surface water standards, the indicator for the fifth category of water bodies is 40,000 per liter. If it is worse than this, it can only be called a smelly water ditch.

Looking at the Ganges River again, the Ganges River water in the holy city of Varanasi has a fecal coliform indicator of up to 100 million per liter, which is 2,500 times higher than the standard. Humans and E. coli are indeed equal here!

If you look at other indicators, the Ganges River performs equally well. Netizens jokingly call it the “River of the Periodic Table of Elements” is not an exaggeration.

For example, the Yamuna River, the mother river of the capital New Delhi, has a lead content of up to 120 mg/l (read 120 mg per liter), which is more than a thousand times the national Class V water standard (Class V water standard 0.1 mg/l) .

In addition to lead, it is common for other elements in the Ganges River water to exceed the legal limit by dozens of times. This has also caused serious harm to the endangered species in the river, the Ganges river dolphin, which suffers from severe lead poisoning and cadmium poisoning in its liver.

Of course, there are public standards for specific elements, and they can be used for comparison. As for the corpses and ashes in the river, it is difficult to tell what they are composed of.

 The Ganges has become so abstract, who should take the blame?

 Physical + spell output

First of all, the British, although you have been on the run for 70 years, don’t you have no responsibility at all?

It stands to reason that in the South Asian subcontinent with excellent water and heat conditions, if there is no large-scale development, the forest coverage rate should be extremely high. However, India’s forest coverage rate is only 24% now, which is basically the same as China, which has vast arid areas. This means It makes no sense.

Timber is still an important strategic resource today, and it was even more so hundreds of years ago.

The Industrial Revolution was in full swing in Britain, bringing it to the throne of world hegemony, but it also depleted Britain’s native forest resources. At that time, forest cover throughout Western Europe was declining rapidly. Britain searched the map and found no better dividend than India.

Then the “black slave-style” plunder began. What is “black slave-style plunder”? That is to just get on the ship but not get off the ship, just cut it without paying attention to the follow-up. After many forests were cut down, the wood rotted halfway before being transported to the port.
As a result of this operation, by 1880, India’s forest coverage rate had rapidly dropped to 32%, while that of Laos at similar latitudes was 85%.

The decline of forests means soil erosion and frequent floods. Today, the Ganges River is the river with the largest sediment load in the world, larger than the Yellow River. The British are “indispensable” for this.

However, deforestation, water and soil erosion are generally a “physical output”, while E. coli that exceeds the standard by 2,000 times is a “magical output.” The latter is clearly a product of contemporary Indian characteristics.

Specifically, it is the “urbanization with Indian characteristics” brought about by the population explosion. India had a population of 380 million in 1952, and today it is 1.44 billion, ranking first in the world. However, the land area is less than one-third of our country and the population is extremely dense.

In particular, the Ganges River Basin is home to 40% of India’s population, which is equivalent to almost one Indian Ganges River cousin for every 13 people in the world.

The three most fertile states in India are also here (North, Central, and Bihar). Among them, Uttar Pradesh, the northernmost one, has a population of 250 million and is the most populous “first-level administrative region” in the world. It is larger than Henan, Guangdong and Get up more.

These hundreds of millions of Ganges old people are experiencing rapid urbanization. Of course they have the right to pursue a happy life in the city, but modern urban civilization cannot do without two things – toilets and sewers.

Urban life relies on large-scale material imports and exports. The stronger the productivity at the front end, the more domestic waste and garbage at the back end. Multiplied by the population, it will be very considerable.

For example, a healthy adult will defecate 100 to 300 grams every day. Multiplied by 365 days and 600 million people, this is equivalent to 0.2 to 60 million tons of cake. Without industrial treatment, so much cake would be an environmental disaster, with E. coli exceeding the legal limit by more than 2,000 times.

This is just the waste excreted by the human body. In daily life, a large amount of solid waste is produced every year. The more urban life becomes, the greater the output.

Moreover, India is in the stage of rapid industrialization. Leather, plastics, papermaking, printing and dyeing, chemical industry, and various major polluters are located along the Ganges River. They are working hard to discharge every day and contribute to the “Periodic Table of Elements” of the Ganges River. Lots of ingredients.

This amount of garbage and pollution requires a huge municipal and environmental engineering system to deal with it, whether it is civil or industrial. Those sewer pipes, sewage plants, and landfills that you can’t see are the unsung heroes that keep the city running.

 Does India have these?

It cannot be said that there is none, but it is very scarce. India’s current garbage processing capacity can only meet half of the demand. The remaining garbage has only two places to go. One is the garbage siege, from New Delhi to Agra (where the Taj Mahal is located), and from Le Knau to Patna, all like that.

The other is to dump the Ganges River. Countless Indians’ dumplings, immeasurable solid waste, and trillions of liters of sewage must all be drained away. The Ganges, a river that can endure hardships, has actually become a river in North India. “Hook”.

In a published paper by an Indian scholar, it was stated that the Ganges River is the second most polluted river in the world.

Considering that the No. 1 Sitarum River in Java, Indonesia, is only about 300 kilometers long, calling the Ganges the most polluted “big river” in the world does not violate advertising laws at all.

As the largest dragon’s beard ditch in North India and the world, the Ganges River also has another characteristic – the seasonal changes in water volume are great. During the dry season from March to April every year, the flow of the Ganges River is only about 2,000 cubic meters/second, which is the same as that of the Yellow River. Not bad; but during the rainy season months, the flow can expand 20 times to 40,000 cubic meters per second.

As a result, the Ganges River does not have sufficient self-purification ability during the dry season, or it may simply be a “sewage river”, with the river water turning completely black, so black that it can be seen with the naked eye. Even the most extreme Indian nationalists dare not speak harshly; otherwise, the ambulance will sound.

 How far is the Ganges from its limit?

At this time, Ganges has been filled with physical and magical damage, but it is not over yet. People of Banat, also want to give Ganga a little Brahmin shock.

As the holy river of the Indian people, a large number of religious activities are held on both sides of the Ganges every year. A large number of believers bathe in the river and offer sacrifices.

The flow of people at these large-scale religious activities can reach tens of millions, and just disorderly eating, drinking, and drinking can dry up local water quality to collapse in a short period of time. The effect is comparable to the hippopotamuses on the East African savannah who use their excretion to cause oxygen deprivation in the river water and suffocate fish and shrimp to death.

Hindus believe that cremating a body by the Ganges and scattering it into the Ganges can wash away the soul, especially in the holy city of Varanasi. Every year, crematoriums along the Ganges River in Varanasi handle more than 30,000 bodies. As for those poor people who cannot afford cremation, many of them are simply thrown into the river and degrade naturally. It is impossible to count them at all, and this is just one city.

The Ganges is in such a state that even the heavily bureaucratic Indian government can no longer stand it. In 2011, the Ganga River Basin Authority (NMCG) was finally established and the vigorous National Ganga River Basin Project (NGRBA) was launched. However, this is more like a “face project” for the election.

For example, many new toilets have been built along the coast, but the sewage from the toilets is actually discharged directly into the Ganges. This is in line with the Indian version of urbanization that “only builds above ground but not underground”.

Not only has the pollution control failed, but Indian bureaucrats have even more to occupy and extract the value of the Ganges. For example, the mouth of the Ganges River is in Bangladesh, but how can such sacred Ganges water flow into the hands of Muslims? West Bengal should be given priority to supply, so the Fakhara Dam was built on the border, and a considerable proportion of the Ganges water was brought to the sea through Kolkata.

This has become an irremovable obstacle in the relations between India and Bangladesh. Even in the Sundarbans, the world’s largest mangrove forest at the mouth of the Ganges, both countries have their own agenda and applied for UNESCO World Heritage status once each.

Obviously, compared with the pollution problem, “making India great again” is the top priority at the moment. Since the Ganges can endure hardships so much, it might as well eat more.

Although today’s Ganghe relies on his strong basic statistics, he is still “useable”.

However, India’s population is still growing, and urbanization and industrialization are accelerating. The huge costs will not disappear, but will only be transferred.

The Ganges’ environmental collapse is essentially the result of India’s modernization process passing on a large amount of costs to nature, and it is rapidly approaching the limit of environmental endurance. As long as India’s road to modernization goes, the Ganges will suffer hardships.

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