Tuesday, September 27th, 2022 19:29:38

A Divinity In Shrinking

Updated: August 30, 2014 4:03 pm

If anyone wants to go deep into the encyclopaedia of Mother Ganga, one needs to read the great holistic verses of Sri Ganga Strotam written by Adi Guru Shankaracharya and if anyone needs to know why Ganga is known as the universal mother, one must must not miss to read the the descriptions of great saint Swami Tapovanji Maharaj, Gurudev of Swami Chinmayanand, who meditated at her enthralling banks for two decades. To the Hindu saints Ganga is not a merely geographical river, but she is a permanent symbol of Infinite Truth, which is Eternal Substratum for the phenomenal play of all impermanent names and forms. She nurses and nourishes the age-old brilliant Hindu culture and civilisation of love, peace and progress. Her water has the unique quality of high oxidisation power that destroy germs and are the only samples of water on earth that can be bottled and preserved for years. For ages, the Ganga has been a source of inspiration to saints, sages, poets, authors, scientists, leaders, and many others who have gathered at her banks. The Ganga is not only the lifeline of millions of people who live along her banks and the ecosystems she supports, she is truly the cultural and spiritual heritage of India. If the Ganga lives, India lives. If the Ganga dies, India dies.

Against this backdrop, the present Modi government at the Centre is inspired and dedicated to work towards Ganga’s restoration, protection and preservation. But it is tragic that the Ganga finds a place among the five most polluted rivers of the world. The alarming rise in pollutants poses a grave threat to all. It is estimated that about 1.4 × 106 m3 d-1 of domestic wastewater and 0.26 × 106 m3 d-1 of industrial sewage are going into the river. Solid garbage is thrown directly into the river, and sources of pollution from agricultural via harmful pesticides and fertilisers, animal carcasses and half-burned and unburned human corpses are thrown into the river. These are some main causes for the pollution in the river Ganga. Around 45 tanneries, 10 textile mills and several other industrial units discharge 37.15 million gallon per day of waste water generating BOD load of approximately 61630 Kg/day. Hence, cleaning the Ganga is a Himalayan task and requires commitment. There are many challenges and hurdles. One plan to clean the holy river did not succeed, and now there is another plan. Politics should not be the motive behind cleaning the Ganga, and it has been a poll plank of different political parties, consequently nothing has been achieved. Crores have gone down the drain, but where is the result? The Ganga river is shrinking. Just beautifying the ghats will be a cosmetic solution. The main issue is tackling the flow of sewage into the Ganga. Citizens also pollute the Ganga by immersing the remains of dead bodies, along with flowers and other material, when rituals are performed. As a country, Indians lack civic awareness and never take the effort to follow correct and right practices in public places. Throwing garbage/plastic, spitting, relieving ourselves and even defecating in public do not induce any sense of shame. We need to train local people to follow civic cleanliness and ensure that they in turn see to it that pilgrims follow the rules. The best systems will collapse if we do not learn to maintain them.

In this perspective, the government, in the latest project to clean the Ganga, has used the term “rejuvenation” to mean desilting the river bed, ensuring a sustainable water flow, safeguarding its floodplains and expanding the use of available water. It also means encompassing proper soil conservation measures in the catchment areas, which is hardly ever thought of. However, the success of such a big project largely depends upon the active cooperation of the people living along the banks of this holy river. The media can also play a vital role in creating awareness among masses. The optimum utilisation of funds allocated under this project can only be made through proper coordination between the Centre and the state governments. In this background, while emphasising water resources development programmes, one should also consider the growing population, lifestyle changes, huge regional variations in water availability and demand, etc. When the population size has increased by leaps and bounds, humans are forced to usurp the places of other living things, in such a contingency, the question arises of ecological balance and environmental stability. Hence, the government, in the consultation, should include experts from diverse fields such as biologists, fishery scientists and oceanographers. For, if we are sincere and keen on cleaning the Ganga and other rivers, a comprehensive plan must be drawn up involving states, institutions and departments. Only tourism, shipping and the construction of dams and barrages do not fit into the scheme of things. India must also look at the examples of the Rhine and the Thames. All cities along the Ganga must be connected to a series of effluent treatment plants. New ones need to be built with new technology. All other moves to clean the river will come to naught unless pollution is tackled. Here it is worth mentioning that if one goes back to the year 1960 and watches the movie Jis Desh Mein Ganga Behti Hai, produced by Raj Kapoor, one remembers what people thought of the Ganga. In those days, the Ganga was not dirty. Those were the days of Vinoba Bhave, with an innovative mission of Bhoodan (donation of land to the landless), and of Jawaharlal Nehru, who was the hero in Indian politics. Kapoor produced another movie in 1985, Ram Teri Ganga Maili. When the second movie was produced, the then Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi launched a project to clean the Ganga. But what happened in between the 25 years of the two movies? Why did people pollute the Ganga? The answer to this question will not only help find ways to clean the Ganga, but also many other rivers and canals.

Deepak Kumar Rath

Deepak Kumar Rath

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