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Millennium Post

We are losing all our river systems

If the dreadful report recently released by the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) on the extent of pollution in the waters of River Ganga is anything to go by, then by all means, it seems that we are on the brink of losing most of our great river systems to our insatiable greed and environmental degradation. The water quality, as the document suggests, has gone down, despite the UPA government’s setting up of the National Ganga River Basin Authority (NGRBA) in 2010, headed by none other than Prime Minister Manmohan Singh himself. The urban centres, as expected, continue to register the worst of conditions, with contaminants, including highly toxic industrial effluents, at levels so alarming that not only is the water unfit for drinking, it is even unsuitable for taking a dip, the river’s great traditional and religious significance notwithstanding. Almost all of the certified poisonous items, and their corollary indicators, such as biochemical oxygen demand, faecal coliform levels, among others, are at all time highs, turning the mighty water system into a giant sewer, carrying liquids disastrously damaging for the environment in its bosom. As the document further indicates, the water treatment plants that have been erected to bring about wide-scale decontamination, have been rendered ineffective and unable to cope with the flux of pollutants that are drained into the river on a daily basis.

It is ironical that India doesn’t have the heart to stop the most holy river in its own land from dying a slow, difficult death, choked in its own scum. The sight of Ganga, worshipped by many Hindus and still held as the most sacred of all the rivers in the country, is an exercise in heart-wrenching guilt. It is the guilt of not stopping an increasingly growing lobby of builders and industrialists, politicians and bureaucrats, who want to sacrifice India’s watery vascular system and indiscriminately destroy the environmental bounty at the altar of greed. Such is the rapaciousness of this nexus of contractors and engineers of devastation that they are willing to go to any length, even oversee unprecedented catastrophes such as the one in Uttarakhand last year, only to fill up their coffers. Even as they build more hotels and temples to promote religious tourism, they kill of the most beautiful gift endowed their gods, turning it into a dumping ground of excreta and wastes, pesticides and other poisons.
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