India’s Ganges River is the primary source of fresh water for over 40 percent of its population. In addition, it is of great ritual significance to the local culture. However, over the past decades, the Ganges has become extremely polluted by chemical runoff, garbage, fecal waste and at times human remains. The dilemma worsens in the off season where the lack of monsoon rainfall reduces the river to extremely stagnant levels.
In order to remedy this situation, the Indian government, with funding assistance from the World Bank, has entered into a collaboration with the nation of Israel to return the Ganges to health by 2020. Unbeknownst to some, Israel has made great strides in environmentally-friendly technologies, alternative energy, and reversing the effects of severe water pollution within its own borders. Its expertise in this area has allowed the Indian government to begin the implementation of practices to begin bringing down pollution levels in the river. These include changing irrigation practices and diverting the river through series’ of man-made marshes to purify the water to drinkable levels. Not to mention the mass extraction of garbage from key areas.
This cleanup effort is vital to India’s future. A large segment of the nation’s population depends on the Ganges as a source of drinking water, as well as for ritual bathing. As the quality of the river worsens, water-borne illnesses will only increase, harming millions of people who are already living without adequate sanitation or access to medical services.
The two nations will be racing against mother nature however, as according to a 2007 UN climate change report, the glacial flows that feed the already stagnating river may cease as soon as 2030. This adds the extra incentive needed to begin restoring India’s holiest and most vital river in earnest before its too late.