The Ganges River, or the Ganga as we call it, starts from high above in the Himalayas(Bhagirathi flows out of Gangotri glacier from the state of Uttarakhand) and drain into the Bay of Bengal, though before draining into the Bay of Bengal, it creates the world’s largest delta- The Ganges Delta. This delta is extremely fertile, spreading over a very large area and home to a large number of people. The river is known as Ganga from the region where the two rivers of Bhagirathi and Alaknanda meet ,i.e., Devprayag and flows onto the Indo-Gangetic plain. It thus forms a very large part of northern an eastern part of India and also Pakistan, Nepal and Bangladesh. It is the longest river of India and flows over a distance of 2,525, km. on it way downstream, it passes through the cities of Kolkata, Mirzapur, and Varanasi. The river Ganges is the holiest river of the Hindus and many people visit the region of Varanasi where the Ganges flows as it is considered the holiest of all those cities. According to our 2001 census, the Ganga basin alone supports 43 percent of our population. It has the largest drainage area in the whole world. Its tributaries originate from Bangladesh, China (Tibet) and Nepal.
So, now that we understand What is Ganga? Where does it originate? Where does it drain? Let us have a brief look at its importance, not that we need to, because we have been exploiting it since time immemorial. We, of course, know its importance better and its uses.
- With its basin spread across 11 north Indian states, it is the primary source of fresh water to people of many of those states.
- Not only does it provide water, it is a very important source of livelihood as people settle near its banks and depend on its water as well as fertile plains, producing rice, wheat, potato, etc. that are important cash crops.
- It also provides space for animal husbandry and fisheries, river based trade and transport.
- It is home to many unique fauna species- eg. Ganga River Dolphin- our National Aquatic Animal, the endangered turtle and crocodilian species and so many more.
- River Ganges holds a very sacred place for the Hindus. The sandy banks are also the burial ground for their loved ones.
- Many industries are developed along the banks of the river. It acts as their dumping grounds. Not only for industries, it also acts as the dumping grounds for the nearby population.
But now, this lifeline to the country is the 5th most populated river in the world whose water is not deemed unfit to drink(without treating). (Source: Wikipedia). A recent report by a Delhi based NGO (http://toxicslink.org/docs/Quantitative%20analysis%20of%20Microplastics%20along%20River%20Ganga.pdf) found that the mighty Ganga is heavily polluted with microplastics, especially concentrated in Varanasi and Kanpur, followed by Haridwar. What’s even more shocking is their composition- industrial and secondary broken-down plastics from articles of everyday use and, of course, religious offerings wrapped in non- degradable plastic. The days are coming when the glory of the Ganges will be a thing of the past. Is this how we treat something we respect, worship and adore? And if this is, as it definitely seems, then all the other natural bodies and organisms beware- Any of you might be our next target for the time of Ganga might come to an end.