Polluted Ganga

The Ugly, Deadly Ganga

“If Ganga lives, India lives. If Ganga dies, India dies.” – Dr. Vandana Shivaji

Continuing with our earlier post about ‘How fit is India?’, river Ganga which is considered as the Holiest river of India and is lifeline to the entire north and central India. People depend upon it for agriculture, consumption and other daily needs have now turned deadly for the same people.

In reply to an RTI application Central Pollution Control Board revealed that Ganga water is contaminated in places with up to 3 lakh fecal coliform bacteria and 5 lakh total coliform bacteria per 100 ml.

In Kanpur, the fecal coliform count is 58,000 mpn/100 ml and the total coliform count 1.2 lakh mpn/100 ml. The data for fecal coliform and total coliform for Sangam, Allahabad, matches that of Malaviya Bridge, Varanasi: 33,000 and 63,000 mpn/100 ml respectively for both places. The river is slightly clear in Bihar with fecal coliform count ranging between 2,000 and 9,000 and total coliform up to 24,000. Fecal coliform contamination is the highest – 3 lakh mpn/100 ml – at Garden Reach, again near Kolkata.  Untreated sewage, poorly maintained septic systems, un-scooped pet waste, and farm animals with direct access to streams can cause high levels of fecal coliform bacteria to appear in a water body.


Levels of bacteria at Ganga

If fecal coliform counts are high (over 200 colonies/100 ml of a water sample) in a body of water, there is a greater chance that disease-causing organisms are also present. If you are swimming in waters with high levels of fecal coliform, you have a greater chance of developing a fever, nausea or stomach cramps from swallowing disease causing organisms, or from pathogens entering the body through cuts in the skin, the nose, mouth, or ears. Some examples of diseases and illnesses that can be contracted in water with high fecal coliform counts include typhoid fever, hepatitis, gastroenteritis, dysentery, and ear infections.


The National Mission for Clean Ganga was set up in 2011 to implement programs and objectives for a clean and pollution free Ganga. In July 2014, the ‘Namami Gange’ program was announced under the National Mission for Clean Ganga initiative with an allocated budget of Rs 20,000 crores for 5 years. The objective of the Namami Gange program was to ensure sewage management, industrial discharge management and the beautification of several ghats along the Ganga. 3 years into the Ganga cleanup program, where do we stand?

Where does the money go?

Money (in crores of rupees) spent on cleaning up the Ganga from 2011 onwards, as revealed in an RTI response.

YearActual ReleaseSpending by NMCG
(Rs. in crores)
2017-18 (up to July)0244.84

It is a grim irony that Indians who worship the Mother Ganges are killing the river they revere. Yet even now, the problem of pollution in India’s rivers can be solved. Indians have to snap out of apathy and ignorance. They must accord the same importance to the cleaning of the Ganges as they do to attending the Kumbh. The first step in solving any problem is recognizing it. It is high time that Indians come to the realization that the Ganges is far too toxic to be holy anymore.

Post Author: Sumit Sasidharan

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