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Eco Friends’s Battle of the Ganga

Despite the very high level of pollution of the river Ganga, it continues to attract polluting industries.

An astonishing paradox, that of the relationship of Hindus with their holy rivers. No matter how venerated, they are also godforsakenly polluted! The Ganga is no exception to the rule. Although flowing in the cradle region of the Hindu religion, so many myths of which it has inspired, its pollution there is as dramatic, or even more dramatic than elsewhere. “People come from all of India for their ablutions, to bathe, to deposit offerings, or to die on the left bank of the Ganga to achieve the Svarga, the paradise of Indra, the god of storm, but no one imagines for a second that this river, symbol of purification, can also be polluted!” explains Rakesh, founder and president of the organization Ecofriends.

The aim of this nongovernmental organization set up in 1993 is to raise the awareness of the residents of the Ganga to the environmental problems and the impacts of the pollution of the Ganga on their health. Knowing that 400 million Indians live more or less directly off the Ganga for drinking, eating, and washing purposes in the largest and most populated river basin in the world, Ecofriends’ task is at the very least an arduous one! “The problems of the Ganga are as long as it is (2,500 kilometers), which is why we chose to concentrate on the most polluted area, Kanpur,” continues Rakesh. Once considered as the Manchester of India, Kanpur is today "a garbage dump city," according to the five Ecofriends employees. In some places, Kanpur is in an open sewer, where the water of the Ganga carries traces of toxic products, among others chromium, nickel, and arsenic from the leather and chemical industries located on the banks of the river. Other source of pollution, the human and animal corpses thrown into the Ganga half consumed because wood is expensive. Despite the very high level of pollution of the river Ganga, it continues to attract polluting industries.

Insensitive Public Authorities

In spite of a beginning action on the part of the authorities, it became quickly obvious that there is practically no determination on their side. “The situation has tended to improve in the past three years and the quality of the water of Kanpur is better than in Bombay or in Delhi since we set up new wastewater treatment plants”, boasts the mayor of Kanpur, Mr. Anil Sharma. Yet, on the field, no traces of change are observed. Evidence of this is the city’s water-supply sources still placed close to five sewage pipes or the increasing number of people affected with hydric and respiratory diseases in Kanpur. “The only way to stop the Ganga from dying and affecting its residents is to mobilize as many people as possible to put pressure on the industries and the administration,” confides the president of Ecofriends. In order to shake up the latter and to force them to some concern for the river’s ecology, which is deteriorating by the day, Ecofriends multiplies interventions, non-violent demonstrations, and petitions in the schools, the media, and the communities for whom the Ganga is the livelihood (fishers, farmers, launderers, etc. ). No matter how difficult the task, Rakesh remains optimistic: “ I read that the Rhine was once extremely polluted. Many efforts to make it healthier have been crowned with success. If that works for you, why not for us? “



The Ecofriends Web site
(Contact Rakesh K. Jaiswal)
World Water Alliance
Eautourdumonde, campaign to raise awareness on water (in French only)

Further reading:


Agnès Saule
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Laure de Rotalier
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Themes involved

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