There is little doubt that a clean Ganga river will give a billion Indians enough reasons to smile. But we have been talking about cleaning this ancient river for many decades. It has been mostly talk, though, and no tangible action. For much of its course through Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Jharkhand and West Bengal, the Ganga’s pollution has risen to extremely high levels, and not flatteringly it is counted as one of the top-most polluted rivers in the world. It is a shame, really. Its pristine nature and purity remains intact for much of its course in Uttarakhand, the state in which it rises at the foot of the Gangotri glacier (where it is known as the Bhagirathi) before merging with the Alaknanda (formed from snowmelt in high Himalayan peaks like Nanda Devi, Trisul and Kamet)—the hydrological source of the stream—at Devaprayag. Once it enters Uttar Pradesh, though, the Ganga has been made to weather the mindless and unconscionable actions of hundreds of industries that have sprouted in the last few decades, on and around its banks. These industries have spewed millions of litres of effluents, mostly untreated, into the river waters, depriving millions of its pure quality.
Out to correct the gross disrespect of this ancient river system which until a few decades ago was a source of inland navigation for pilgrims, is the current NDA Government’s Task Force on Ganga. In charge is Minister for Water Resources, River Development and Ganga Rejuvenation Ms Uma Bharti who promises to show preliminary results of actual cleaning in the next one year. Her task is cut out, for what has taken decades to pollute cannot be undone in a short time.