The article on the Ganga (June 12) reminded me of a trip in 2004 to Rishikesh and Hardwar. We have a container filled with water from the Ganga with us in Kerala and it is still clean and without odour. It is obvious then that the filth and pollutants in the river are picked up when it passes through habitations — and as seen in the picture accompanying the article. Though the new government has a Minister for “Water Resources, River Development and Ganga Rejuvenation,” one is sceptical especially as schemes such as the Ganga Action Plan, Phases I and II, the National River Conservation Authority and the National Ganga River Basin Authority did not yield desired results in the past.
It is a tragic that the Ganga finds a place among the five most polluted rivers. The alarming rise in pollutants, especially mercury, poses a grave threat to the Ganges river dolphin. Cleaning it will also reduce the spread of cholera.
Cleaning the Ganga is a very difficult task and requires commitment. There are many challenges and hurdles, the biggest of them being people: pilgrims from all over and those living there. As a country, Indians lack civic awareness and never take the effort to follow correct and right practices in public places. Throwing garbage/plastic, spitting, relieving ourselves and even defecating in public do not induce any sense of shame. We also need to train local people to follow civic cleanliness and ensure that they in turn see to it that pilgrims follow the rules. The best systems will collapse if we do not learn to maintain them.