Quantcast

These Are the Challenges Facing India’s Most Sacred River

Popular

A sadhu—a common term for a mystic, an ascetic, practitioner of yoga—rowing a boat on the holy Ganges River.

hadynyah / E+ / Getty Images

By Johnny Wood

The Ganges is a lifeline for the people of India, spiritually and economically. On its journey from the Himalayas to the Bay of Bengal, it supports fishermen, farmers and an abundance of wildlife.

The river and its tributaries touch the lives of roughly 500 million people. But having flowed for millennia, today it is reaching its capacity for human and industrial waste, while simultaneously being drained for agriculture and municipal use.

Here are some of the challenges the river faces.


Dolphins in Peril

Large schools of freshwater dolphins, known as Ganges River dolphins, were once found along the river. Now they swim in small groups or alone, and have become endangered due to pollution, dams, irrigation projects and the dredging of new shipping channels.

Raw Sewage

More than 1 billion litres of raw sewage flow into the river every day. In places, the water's bacteria count reaches 3,000 times the limit declared safe for bathing by the World Health Organization.

Plastic Pollution

Plastic and industrial waste, such as waste water from the leather tanneries that sit on the banks of the Ganges, are another cause of pollution.

Lack of Water

But perhaps the most worrying problem facing the river is its increasing lack of water. Water for irrigation is being removed faster than the rainy season can replenish it.

Dams and Diversions

The Ganges is being throttled by more than 300 dams and diversions, with many more blocking its tributaries, stopping the natural ebb and flow of the river.

Monsoon Rains

Climate change is making the monsoon rains unpredictable, increasing the likelihood of extreme weather events like droughts, and leaving the fishermen of the Ganges with dwindling catches.

Reposted with permission from our media associate World Economic Forum.

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

Baby orangutan and mother orang utan seen walking in Jakarta, Indonesia. Aprison Photography / Moment / Getty Images

By Tara Lohan

To be a good wildlife photographer, you need an expertly trained eye. But good ears help, too.

Read More
Worker spraying toxic pesticides or insecticides on corn plantation. D-Keine / E+ / Getty Images

Poor people in developing countries are far more likely to suffer from exposure to pesticides classified as having high hazard to human health or the environment, according to new data that Unearthed analyzed.

Read More
Sponsored
Power to heat, to cool, to drive the world's industries. Renewables can supply it all. Jason Blackeye / Unsplash

By Paul Brown

Virtually all the world's demand for electricity to run transport and to heat and cool homes and offices, as well as to provide the power demanded by industry, could be met by renewable energy by mid-century.

Read More
Phthalates, a group of chemicals used to make plastics more flexible and harder to break, affect health in many ways. Tatyana Tomsickova Photography / Moment / Getty Images

By George Citroner

  • Exposure to phthalates was associated with autism traits in boys (but not girls) between ages 3 and 4 years, according to a new study.
  • However, the risk was diminished in women who took folic acid during their pregnancy.
  • This study is the first to find that folic acid supplements provide a protective effect from phthalates.

Exposure in the womb to a group of endocrine-disrupting chemicals called phthalates was associated with autism traits in boys (but not girls) between ages 3 and 4 years, according to a new study.

Read More
A coral and fish community at the Great Barrier Reef, northeast of Port Douglas, Queensland, Australia, on Aug. 28, 2018. Francois Gohier / VWPics / Universal Images Group via Getty Images

Researchers released a sobering study this week showing that all of the world's coral reefs may be lost to the climate crisis by 2100.

Read More