Hindus have long believed that the water of Ganga has a special purity. Studies conducted in 1983 on water samples taken from the right bank of the Ganga at Patna confirm that escheria coliform (E.Coli.), fecal streptococci and vibrio cholerae organisms die two to three times faster in Ganga than in water taken from the rivers Son and Gandak and from dug wells and tube wells in the same area. However, despite the natural resilience of the Ganga, the alarmingly high volume of pollution poses an ever increasing threat to the health and life of the river.
The principal sources of pollution in the Ganga are domestic and industrial wastes. Conservative estimates put the effluents flowing into Ganga at approximately 1.7 billion litres each day out of which 1.4 billion litres is untreated.
The Ganga basin is home to over 300 million people, out of which 20 million live in densely populated cities directly along it banks. Most of the urban centres lack proper sewage treatment facilities. 88% of the pollution originates in 27 cities located along the banks. While industrial pollution accounts for only about a quarter of the whole problem, it is by no means insignificant since most of it is concentrated in specific areas and the effluents are more hazardous. The state of Uttar Pradesh alone is responsible for over 50% of the pollutants entering the river along its entire journey to the sea.
Domestic and industrial pollution, combined with deforestation, use of pesticides and fertilisers and other factors, have rendered the water of Ganga unfit for drinking or bathing.
Upstream from Varanasi, one of the major pigrimage sites along the river, the water is comparatively pure, having a low Bio-Oxygen Demand (B.O.D.) and Fecal Coliform Count. However, once the river enters the city these levels rise alarmingly. Measurements taken at the city's various bathing ghats during a few years ago show that the average B.O.D of the water rises by over 1300 percent. The average Fecal Coliform Count at the ghats is over 6000 times what it is before the river enters the city.
The Ganga Action Plan launched in 1986 by the Government of India has not achieved any success despite expenditure of over five billion rupees. Even though the government claims that the schemes under the Ganga Action Plan have been successful, actual measurements and scientific data tell a different story. The failure of the GAP is evident but corrective action is lacking.
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