So to continue putting into perspective the absolute dire and catastrophic scale of the holy river’s pollution, consider the following: 50 or 500 fecal coliform per 100 ml of water is unsafe for drinking, and 5000 per 100 ml is the agricultural limit; the average count of the Ganges is 1-2 million per ml of water.
In my reading I have discovered that (harkening back to the original focus of my scrapped Bio-gas idea) domestic sewage is main cause of pollution in the Ganges. 2,723 MILLON liters a day of sewage finds its way into the ganges. That’s insane – not only an absurdly large number, but also a very dangerous one. With 37% of India’s massive population living along the Ganges (that’s 444 million people), the pollution of the Ganges causes countless deaths every year and poses a particular threat to infants and children (with 300,000 children in India under the age of 5 dying every year from diarrhea.) The sewage in the ganges accounts, which for 85% of its pollution, and huge volumes of industrial chemical waste rushes into the river each day are the main pollutants, but religious practices also contribute greatly to the pollution of Ma Ganga (mother ganges as it is called by many Hindus). 32,000 human corpses are cremated in Varanasi alone each year, with 200 tonnes of partially immolated human flesh finding its way into India’s holliest river.
Even with all of this, even with stark reality of the pollution staring the people who depend on it for spiritual rejuvenation and daily survival in the face – filling their vision with floating trash, discolored sludge, corpses of cows, dogs, and human beings, and filling their nostrils with a correspondingly pungent smell, the local response is not straightforward. In Hinduism the Ganges is the purest of all waters, a divine being. They bath in and swallow its water out of tradition and out of a love for the Ganges. To speak of its imperfection, pollution, to see this symbol of Indian culture as sick and dangerous, in need of help, sometimes offends this love.
In the creation of my oasis local and religious response will be an important factor, and will most likely be the ultimate force in defining the lasting success of such a project. Any purification system must be implemented in such a way that it respects and interweaves with the cultural mentality of its location.
Mallet, Victor. “The Ganges: Holy, Deadly River – FT.com.” Financial Times. The Financial Times LTD, 13 Feb. 2015. Web. 13 May 2015.
Ramachandran, Sudha. “Cleaning Up the Ganges.” The Diplomat. The Diplomat, 15 Sept. 2014. Web. 13 May 2015.