FR EN ES Search
  1. Home
  2. Past Events
  3. The Ganges, a sacred but suffocated river


All the news

The Ganges, a sacred but suffocated river

The Ganges is one of the most polluted rivers in the world.

More than 1,500 million litres of untreated water and 500 million litres of industrial wastewater (from 700 highly pollutant industries) are discharged into it every day. That’s without counting the solid waste and cadavers. The weight of religious beliefs also presents another problem: in the Hindu religion, predominant in India, the river is linked to the goddess Ganga and is believed to purify the soul. Mass pilgrimages contribute to the pollution and traditional beliefs have it that the river is self-cleansing.

The main tributary of the Ganges, the Yamuna, a sacred river flowing through New Delhi, is already considered to be “clinically dead”, according to Ashwini Kumar Mishra, the founder of the ecological movement Yamuna Satyagraha. 70% of the water used by the capital’s population (numbering some 20 million) is taken from this river into which is discharged the industrial and domestic waste of a population without access to a sewage system. Neither plants nor fish can survive in its waters in which only the most resistant bacteria can live.

A short-lived hope

This alarming situation led to a major legal breakthrough in March 2017: the Ganges and Yamuna were awarded the status of “living entities having legal status” by the High Court of Uttarakhand. This permits the rivers to obtain the right to compensation for deliberate damage, in order to ensure their preservation and conservation.

Unfortunately, the State of Uttarakhand quickly appealed against the ruling, considering it “legally non-viable”, and it was repealed by the Supreme Court of India, which decided that local judges could not rule on the fate of a river that that crosses the entire country.


So, how can the Ganges be saved and protected?

The challenge is huge, with environmental, political, legal and cultural dimensions. The Ganges is a victim of pollution but also of deforestation, overexploitation, fast demographic growth and climate change. The economic impacts are immediate for the 450 million Indians who near its banks. Small farmers are particularly hard hit by water shortages and conflicts caused by the scarcity of water resources are increasing: fatal riots in Delhi in 2016, diplomatic conflicts with China and Pakistan, both of which share borders with India, the march of tens of thousands of small farmers in Mumbai in March. The Forum for Policy Dialogue on Water Conflicts in India counted at least 350 conflicts throughout the country.


Discover the Ganges in images with the photographs of Franck Vogel and the survey “Can the Ganges still be saved?” in the magazine GEO of June 2018, now in the shops.                                                                               

Also available, the first volume of the photography project of Franck Vogel: Fleuves Frontières, which can help us to better understand water’s issues on the Nile, the Brahmaputra, the Colorado and the Jordan.


Mettez à jour votre navigateur pour consulter ce site