The Hindu Lit for Life 2018

A sacred river where superbugs swim: Little has been achieved despite the amount of money and time allocated to the Ganga clean-up project

Swachh paradox: Victor Millet in conversation with Suhasini Haidar.   | Photo Credit: S. Narayana Swamy

Why does a nation that reveres the Ganga and looks to it for sustenance defile it with sewage, toxic pollutants and half-cremated dead bodies?

India’s most sacred river is also the best example of its swachh paradox, of clean houses and filthy commons. Journalist Victor Mallet set out to look at the strange disconnect between official policy that commits over a billion dollars for a clean-up of the Ganga and a population that thinks nothing of tossing mountains of waste in it. The result is his book, River of Life, River of Death: The Ganges and India’s Future, which was the subject of the session titled A River Runs Through It: The Ganges and India’s Future held at The Hindu Pavilion on the second day of The Hindu Lit for Life 2018.

“I wish I didn’t have to say this. Unfortunately, surprisingly little has been achieved despite the amount of money and time allocated,” Mallet remarked, speaking to Suhasini Haidar about the action plans rolled out by governments to clean the river.

It is another of India’s paradoxes that governments can build an entire city for a festival such as the Kumbh Mela, providing two million people with electricity, roads, telecommunication, sanitation, law-order and health facilities, but not being able to do the same on a permanent basis.

Lack of sanitation helps diseases travel along the Ganga. Mallet pointed out that the unhealthy sanitary conditions make India an ideal place for the mutation of superbugs. When people foul up a river, the bacteria travel far beyond the place of their origin. They kill hundreds of children.

At the same time, many in India want the Ganga to be cleaned up. What stands in the way is the inability of government officials — often corrupt and inefficient — to deliver, Mallet said. But a good plan to revive the Ganga and its tributaries would create thousands of jobs, which is something the country needs badly.

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Printable version | Jun 18, 2021 6:49:16 PM |

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