Ganges River Pollution

The Ganges River Pollution is now at such a high level that the amount of toxins, chemicals and other dangerous bacteria found in the river are now almost 3000 times over the limit suggested by the WHO as 'safe'.

The river directly and indirectly affects the largest population of any river in the world with over more than 420 million people who rely on it for food, water, bathing and agriculture. And that is not to mention the tens of Millions of pilgrims who venture to India's most holy of rivers each year to bathe and worship.

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So with such a massive influence on the local and national population, why is it that the river is so completely and utterly disgusting?

Well this is a question that is asked everyday and to help answer it we first need to take a look at a few facts which mean that the environmental issue in India are some of the worst in the world. When you've finished you may want to have a look at air pollution in India

This page contains some graphic images

Facts about Ganges River Pollution

  • Approximately 1 billion litres of raw, untreated sewage are dumped in the river on a daily basis. The amount has more than doubled in the last 20 years and experts predict another 100% increase in the following 20 years.
  • The rapid explosion of India's population in the last 25 years coupled with lax regulations on industry has put a huge strain on the river leading to an explosion in Ganges river pollution.
  • Thousands of bodies are cremated on the banks of the river yearly with many being released into the river with hopes that their souls may have a direct path to heaven.
Ganges river pollution
  • Hundreds Unwanted or 'illegitimate' babies, cattle and other animal carcases are also dumped in the Ganges again with religious significance
  • The levels of Coliform bacteria is over 2800 times the level considered safe by the W.H.O (world health organisation).

Below: Sewage pouring into the Ganges, Varanasi 2009

Sewage in the ganges, ganges river pollution

A route to heaven and a highway of flesh

One of the more alarming issues facing everybody remotely related to the river are the dead bodies of both humans and cattle which serenely float by almost completely unnoticed, or perhaps consciously ignored by busy bathers hoping to purify their souls.

The bodies are released into the river with a hope that the soul will be saved and be immediately received by heaven.

Right: A body washed up on the banks near Varanasi

dead body in ganges river, body in river

Ganges Pollution and the nectar of God

One of the biggest reasons why the river has quite literally been shat upon in the past 20 years is because good old fashioned human denial and ignorance.

The problems have been allowed to escalate to the dangerously high proportions we have today because of that fact that Hindus simply do not want to accept that their 'mother Ganga', nectar of God, bringer of hope and purifier of souls is or can be responsible for bringing them illness and misery. Instead claims of record pollution fall on deaf ears.

Follow this link for more information about environmental issues in India.

Below: A human body passes while a man washes in the river, Varanasi

body floating in ganges, ganges pollution

Ganges river pollution and industry

Some of the main Ganges river pollution contributors are those in industry - specifically in this case those of the leather industry who use vast amounts of chromium and other toxins and chemicals - the majority of which ends up in the slow paced waters of the Ganges during the dry season, peak time for the tanning industry and also when the river is moving at its slowest.

Thanks to globalisation, international, national and local government this trend seems unlikely to get better with more and more factories cropping up every week and all running under a distinct lack of regulations.

Below: Chromium pollutes the Ganges turning it toxic and poisonous

Chromium pollution in the ganges, industrial pollution, ganges river pollution

Consequences of Ganges river pollution

Now these problems are huge on their own but couple with this with fact that India's holiest river, specifically at the banks of the ton of Varanasi, is considered as the pilgrimage site with tens of thousands of pilgrims entering the city every month to bathe, wash, sip and drink the water.

The river is now a leading cause of infant and child mortality rates, skin problems and some more, serious disabilities -

The Yamuna river, the main contributor to the Ganges has been completely devoid of all water and sea life for the past 15 year!

Another of the main issues of the Ganges river pollution is the vast irrigation networks which have cropped up to feed India's ever expanding population - These vast networks of canals and ditches slowly but surely filter off the water from the Ganges and it's subsidiaries causing an alarming drop in the water levels, especially in the dry season. Another sad side story of the destruction of the Ganges is the downfall of the native Ganges river dolphins.

So What now?

Ganges river pollution is getting seriously bad( as you may have now noticed) and something needs to be done now.

A solution however, seems far away with gross negligence, ignorance and stupidity pouring from every sect of Indian society from Government, the people and of course big business which still continues to rape India and her people at every level.

But, all hope is not lost and there does seem to be some hope on the horizon for the serious case of the Ganges river pollution. The world bank has agreed to loan India al most $1 Billion to clean up the Ganges - Not an insignificant amount by anyone's standards.

What is more, some of the claims made by Hindus about the rivers purifying effects do have some basis in science. The river is thought to be especially full of 'bacteriophages'... little things that destroy bacteria specifically those known for causing cholera and dysentery epidemics.

The river also has a unique ability to hold and retain oxygen in record amounts. Although nobody knows why, this doe mean that things can still grow.

Having said all this though, once you have seen the river running through Varanasi you will no doubt feel as I do about this. The thick black sludge transporting almost everything but water.

    We can send a shuttle into space, we can build the Delhi Metro. We can detonate nuclear weapons. So why can't we clean up our rivers?

          —Rakesh Jaiswal, Ganges activist since 1993

Related pages and further reading

Where is the Ganges river

Rebbecca from Rancho Cucamunga asks this rather pertinent question and is given a rather fabulous answer by Tony from California. check it out!

The India Ganges Dolphin

This amazing creature still somehow survives in the murky waters of the Ganges river although still greatly under threat from extinction.

The Main India Ganges river page

Complete information about this amazing river, the people who depend on it and it's future

India air pollution

The quality of the air in India is bad an getting worse but what are the main causes? What are the consequences? And what is being done about it?

Environmental issues in India

The the pollution crippled rivers, the unbreathable air and a literally breathtaking litter problem - India has some serious environmental problems...


This video is made up of a beautiful song and a striking selection of photos and facts highlighting the terrible state of the rivers in India and the looming environmental and humanitarian crisis.

This video gives some more information about the causes and consequences of extreme pollution in Ganges.

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