FILTH UNLIMITED

In photos: India’s holy river flows toward a toxic death

Obsession
Life as Laboratory
Quartz india
Obsession
Life as Laboratory
Quartz india

One of India’s holiest rivers, the 2,525km-long Ganga, is said to have mysterious self-purifying properties. Ironically, today, the water body ranks among the filthiest in India and the world.

Sewage, industrial chemicals, and pilgrims’ ritual bathing have destroyed it.

The Indian government has often tried to reverse or contain the pollution levels in the river as it also serves as a water source to 400 million people. In mid-2016, it spent Rs2,958 crore (nearly $460 million) for this but with no success. In fact, earlier this year, the National Green Tribunal said that “not a single drop of river Ganga has been cleaned so far.” It accused the government agencies of “only wasting public money.” A month later, the government pumped another Rs1,900 crore ($291 million) into 20 projects—13 of them in the state of Uttarakhand—to build new sewage treatment plants and upgrade existing ones.

In March, the Uttarakhand high court declared Ganga, along with its tributary Yamuna, a “living entity.” It was hoped that this would deter people from polluting them. It didn’t. The Supreme court rolled back the ruling earlier this month.

In a series of photos by Reuters, the river’s journey is depicted, starting as a crystal clear stream up in the icy Himalayas and ending in a toxic mess.

Devprayag, Uttarakhand

Hindu priests sit inside a cave as they perform evening prayers on the banks of the river Ganges in Devprayag, India, March 28, 2017. REUTERS/Danish Siddiqui  SEARCH "SIDDIQUI GANGES" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES. TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY. - RTX3ASDX
Hindu priests inside a cave, performing evening prayers on the Ganga’s banks. (Reuters/Danish Siddiqui)
Lokesh Sharma, 19, a Hindu priest, performs evening prayers on the banks of the river Ganges in Devprayag, India, March 28, 2017. REUTERS/Danish Siddiqui  SEARCH "SIDDIQUI GANGES" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES. - RTX3ASDY
Lokesh Sharma, 19, a Hindu priest, performs evening prayers. (Reuters/Danish Siddiqui)

Haridwar, Uttarakhand

A damaged idol of Hindu goddess Kali is seen in the river Ganges in Haridwar, India, March 29, 2017. REUTERS/Danish Siddiqui  SEARCH "SIDDIQUI GANGES" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES. - RTX3ASDO
A damaged idol of Hindu goddess Kali in Haridwar. (Reuters/Danish Siddiqui)

Mirzapur, Uttarakhand

Untreated sewage from a residential area flows into the river Ganges in Mirzapur, India, April 19, 2017. REUTERS/Danish Siddiqui  SEARCH "SIDDIQUI GANGES" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES. - RTX3ASE3
Untreated sewage from a residential area flows into the river. (Reuters/Danish Siddiqui)
Untreated sewage flows from an open drain into the river Ganges in Mirzapur, India, April 19, 2017. REUTERS/Danish Siddiqui  SEARCH "SIDDIQUI GANGES" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES. - RTX3ASDT
Untreated sewage flows from an open drain into the river. (Reuters/Danish Siddiqui)
A boy runs past a pile of garbage along the river Ganges in Mirzapur, India, April 19, 2017. REUTERS/Danish Siddiqui  SEARCH "SIDDIQUI GANGES" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES. - RTX3ASDF
A pile of garbage along the river. (Reuters/Danish Siddiqui)

Kanpur, Uttar Pradesh

Layers of foam float in a sewage drain flowing into the river Ganges in Kanpur, India, April 2, 2017. REUTERS/Danish Siddiqui  SEARCH "SIDDIQUI GANGES" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES. - RTX3ASEA
Layers of foam float in a sewage drain flowing into the river. (Reuters/Danish Siddiqui)
Dyed leather pieces dry near the banks of the river Ganges in Kanpur, India, April 1, 2017. REUTERS/Danish Siddiqui  SEARCH "SIDDIQUI GANGES" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES. - RTX3ASE8
Dyed leather pieces left to dry near the banks of the river. (Reuters/Danish Siddiqui)
An employee works inside a leather tannery at an industrial area in Kanpur, India, April 1, 2017. REUTERS/Danish Siddiqui  SEARCH "SIDDIQUI GANGES" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES. - RTX3ASDR
A leather tannery in an industrial area along the Ganga. (Reuters/Danish Siddiqui)
Untreated sewage flows from an open drain into the river Ganges in Kanpur, India, April 4, 2017. REUTERS/Danish Siddiqui  SEARCH "SIDDIQUI GANGES" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES. - RTX3ASDP
Untreated sewage flows from an open drain into the river. (Reuters/Danish Siddiqui)

Varanasi, Uttar Pradesh

Relatives immerse a body in the river Ganges prior to cremation in Varanasi, India, April 6, 2017. REUTERS/Danish Siddiqui  SEARCH "SIDDIQUI GANGES" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES. - RTX3ASDJ
Relatives immerse a body in the river Ganges prior to cremation. (Reuters/Danish Siddiqui)

Kolkata, West Bengal

A man cleans garbage along the banks of the river Ganges in Kolkata, India, April 9, 2017. REUTERS/Danish Siddiqui  SEARCH "SIDDIQUI GANGES" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES. - RTX3ASDA
A man cleans garbage along the banks of the river. (Reuters/Danish Siddiqui)
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