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The Ganges is one of the most important rivers in the history of humanity as well as in the life of Indian people. It is the cradle of civilization, and it remains one of the sacred destinations of worship (Das and Tamminga 1648). The river accounts for a quarter of the country’s water resources (Das and Tamminga 1650). It also sustains around 40% of the Indian population. This population density, industrial development and cultural peculiarities of India have led to the significant pollution of the river. It is necessary to note that the government has undertaken numerous steps to address the issue. Nonetheless, this effort has been quite unsuccessful due to such factors as the failure to involve all the stakeholders.
As for the measures to improve the situation, in 1985, the Indian government launched the Ganga Action Plan (GAP) aimed at diminishing the river’s pollution (Das and Tamminga 1655). The major focus of the program was made on the industries and sewage. Certain attention was also paid to the problem of the pollution through the exposure of improperly cremated corpse.
A number of electric crematoriums were established. There were many court cases that resulted in significant penalties for many companies. The sewage system was also improved significantly. However, the problem was not resolved completely, and GPA II was developed. The new program is more holistic as it addresses such factors as religious and cultural.
The History of the City of Benares
It is necessary to note that the environment program failed as it did not take into account the major peculiarities of the people living along the river. The city of Benares plays an essential role in the impact of the population on the river pollution. Apart from being an important industrial location, the city is a sacred place for millions of people. The ancient name of the place is Varanasi (Davies and Mates 236). It is also known as an important cremation location and the place where “the genesis of the universe occurred” and where “the corpse of creation will burn at time’s end” (qtd. in Davies and Mates 236). Therefore, millions of pilgrims visit this site annually. Clearly, this contributes to the problem of pollution.
These people come to the city to cleanse in the waters of Ganges. People also bring flowers and sweets to give their gifts to the gods. Hindu people bathe in the river to purify themselves. They also take the water in their hands and pour it back to the river as an offering to the gods as well as their ancestors (Davies and Mates 236). People also take some water with them to use in various rituals at home.
The Hindu Cremation Ritual
Another significant problem that leads to further pollution of the river is the Hindu cremation ritual. As has been mentioned above, Hindus believe that waters of Ganges purify, and people cleanse corpses of their close ones before cremating them (Davies and Mates 236). The ashes of cremated people are thrown into the river as it is believed that this is the way to further life cycle.
On balance, it is possible to note that the Ganges has played a central role in the life of Indian people and those who practice Hinduism. The city of Benares hosts around 40% of the Indian population and this density inevitably leads to pollution. Industries also contribute to environmental issues, but there is considerable effort to diminish their adverse impact. At that, religious beliefs and practices still cause a lot of trouble for the environmental situation in the area. The government should develop a strategy that would address these issues when developing measures to diminish the pollution of the river.
Das, Priyam, and Kenneth R. Tamminga. “The Ganges and the GAP: An Assessment of Efforts to Clean a Sacred River.” Sustainability 4.1 (2012): 1647-1668. Print.
Davies, Douglas J., and Lewis H. Mates. Encyclopedia of Cremation. Burlington: Ashgate Publishing, Ltd., 2010. Print