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In this photo taken Oct. 26 vegetation is covered in oil after diesel spilled into the Karnaphuli River following a collision of two tankers at Padma jetty in Chittagong. The oil spread about 16 kilometers during high tides and low tides in the river, posing serious threat to the local biodiversity, especially the Ganges river dolphins breeding ground. STR / AFP / Getty Images

An oil spill in the endangered Ganges river dolphin breeding grounds located in southeast Bangladesh has been called a "major disaster" by environmentalists, reports Agence-France Presse (AFP).

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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.

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