Surprised with how I am so consistent with my blog posts? Same here! But it’s actually the enthusiasm of the United Nations’ Global Goals Week that is motivating me to share some knowledge with you all. Sorry, I couldn’t write yesterday as PET had taken over my blog post but I must say that it spoke about some hard-hitting truth! But here I am on the fifth day of the United Nations’ Global Goals Week with another blog post for #sustainably.
By now you all know about #sustainably and if you are new here and then kindly check out my article on #sustainably- my passion project. As a climate change activist, I’ve been working around the country from the Himalayas to the Arabian Sea. Having lived in Haridwar in my childhood years I have a great connection to the mountains and forever flowing rivers.
Being under lockdown, I missed mountains and cried several times and decided next whenever I can get out I’ll come close to River Ganga and give back to it by saving it from all the destruction that we’ve caused over the years.
Let me tell you little known facts about Ganga:
River Ganga was declared as the National River of India by the Indian Government in 2008. It spreads over 2510 Kms, making it the 3rd longest river in India. Being a prominent river, it is facing serious challenges because of multiple reasons like- growing population, rising development in cities, increase of consumer demand, progressing industries around Ganga, pollution from neighboring homes flowing into the river to name a few.
Human activities have heavily contaminated the water of Ganga which is now affecting humans, marine life and is a big contributor to climate change.
Taking you a little deeper into the details
& importance of Ganga:
The human settlement around Ganga: Ganga basin is the most popular river basin in the world which shelters more than 600 million Indians.
Economic value: Over 40 percent of the country’s GDP is generated in this region. The basin provides more than one-third of India’s surface water, 90 percent of which is used for irrigation. About 47 percent of the total irrigated area in India is located in the Ganga basin alone.
Rich Fauna: Within Ganga, 143 different freshwater fish species, belonging to 11 orders, 32 families, and 72 genera have been reported.
Food security: In Uttar Pradesh and the Ganga-Yamuna Doab nearly 70% of the population is involved in agriculture. The Ganga basin is a key part of agricultural industries in India and Bangladesh, and the area it covers is often referred to as the “breadbasket of India”.
Tourism: According to 2017 tourism statistics, Uttarakhand state attracted 3,45,81,097 domestic tourists and 1,42,102 foreign visitors; Haridwar alone attracted over 2 crore travelers.
A survey report by the World Tourism Organisation (WTO) outlined that:
- 58.2% of foreign tourists visited the State for holiday/sightseeing
- 21.9% for health/yoga
- 19.4% for religious reasons.
So what went wrong that I thought to come and work on?
Sewage Waste & Chemical pollution:
Around 100 towns are located along the river bank. It has been assessed that more than 80 percent of the total pollution load arises from domestic sources, i.e. from the settlements along the river course. The sewage from these towns – over 1.3 billion liters per day – passes directly into the river.
Another 260 million liters of industrial wastewater, mostly untreated are discharged by factories, while other major pollution inputs include runoff from the more than 6 million tonnes of chemical fertilizers and 9,000 tonnes of pesticides applied annually within the basin.
Out of the ten rivers that drain over 90% of the total plastic debris into the sea globally, there are three flowing through India – the Indus, Ganga, and the Brahmaputra. Ganga collects untreated sewage, trash, and an estimated 1.2 billion pounds of discarded soft and hard plastic each year.
The impact of plastic waste is visible in Ganga river systems flowing through India. Meghna-Brahmaputra-Ganges (72,845 tons) carries some of the world’s highest amounts of plastic debris to the oceans, according to the United Nations.
How polluting Ganga is affecting lives?
The river is home to threatened species like the Gangetic dolphin, three species of otters, the Critically Endangered Gharial, and at least 12 species of freshwater turtles, including the Critically Endangered Batagur kachuga, critically endangered Ganges shark, Gangetic stingray, Golden mahseer, and Hilsa.
Considering the amount of pollution created in the river Ganga, it surely raises questions on the health-hazards that the river water might cause. The basin provides more than one-third of India’s surface water, 90 percent of which is used for irrigation. As mentioned above, the basin is home to more than 600 million Indians.
Britannica reports “High levels of disease-causing bacteria, as well as such toxic substances as chromium, cadmium, and arsenic, have been found in the Ganges.” When the crops are irrigated with polluted water, there are high chances of the bacterias and toxins seeping into the crops and entering the food chain, thus infecting vegetables and fruits which humans consume.
Ganga is one of the most polluted rivers in the world with pollutants more than 3000 times more than the permissible limit defined by the WHO as ‘safe’. It discharges 115,000 tonnes of plastic each year.
As WWF states, “In our oceans, which provide the largest natural carbon sink for greenhouse gases, plastic leaves a deadly legacy. It directly chokes and smothers a host of marine animals and habitats and can take hundreds of years to break down. As it does, sunlight and heat cause the plastic to release powerful greenhouse gases, leading to an alarming feedback loop. As our climate changes, the planet gets hotter, the plastic breaks down into more methane and ethylene, increasing the rate of climate change, and so perpetuating the cycle.”
So now you know what is happening underneath the new Ganga river which is not crystal-clear anymore and what I have shared with you is just the iceberg of what is hidden under the dark and deadly water of river Ganga. And this is the ground zero for #sustainably.
That’s it for now. But this is not the end… I’ll be back again tomorrow with a more positive aspect where we will look into the solution to these problems.
This is Aakash Ranison. Signing Off.
Get ready to make Ganga, Ganga again!