ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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How to Kill a River

The quantity of water in a river is as important as the quality, something the government fails to understand.

Rivers are designed by nature to flow freely. And to regenerate as they flow. But if you constrain a river near its source, dump sewage, construction debris and industrial pollutants along the way and expect at the end that it will still be a “living” entity, you are obviously delusional. That is precisely what the self-proclaimed protectors of Indian rivers have been over the decades. What else can explain the state of most rivers in the country including the mighty Ganga that is worshipped and revered. Despite well over two decades of special efforts to clean up the Ganga, today in parts its water is so polluted that you would be advised not to dip your toe in it.

The recent resignation of three of the nine non-offi cial “expert” members of the National Ganga River Basin Authority (NGRBA) has drawn attention once again to the tragedy of the Ganga River. Last year, the 34-year-old Swami Nigamananda from Uttarakhand went on an indefinite fast and died before anyone paid heed to his demand that no more dams should be built in the upper reaches of the Ganga. Two months ago, G D Agarwal, an engineer and recognised authority on dams, went on a fast in Varanasi with a similar demand. What both men emphasised through this form of protest is the importance of ensuring that the quantity of water flowing down the Ganga is not restricted. For if the flow declines, as is already evident, no amount of back-end solutions, such as limiting the quantity of pollutants dumped in the river’s lower reaches, will save it.

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