Tuesday, May 15, 2012
Wednesday, March 9, 2011
Ganga/ Ganges: Holiest River in the World… Can we “save” it…
Mother Ganges has been nurturing India for over 7000 years. She has been an integral part of the culture and civilization of India.
Over the past twenty years, however, there has been several sad and unfortunate changes that has taken a toll over the river…
If this continues and we fail to act she would eventually dry up..
Can we save her..
River Ganges starts her journey as river Bhagirathi at Gangotri Himalayan Glacier. She later joins river Alakananda at Devprayag to form Ganga.As she flows along the North Indian plain towards her journey to Bay of Bengal, she irrigates a major part of the Indian Subcontinent.
Over one third of Indian population gets water from the Himalayan Rivers, Ganges being the most predominant..
Over the past decade or two however, she has started drying up, getting polluted, blocked badly in the name of Dam construction etc…
If this continues and we do not ACT NOW, by the time our children grow up, River Ganga would dry up and India would be on the verge of become a desert..
There are three major reasons for the current state of the river..
Firstly, the Gangotri Glacier(Big block of ice which melts to form River) along with the other glaciers of Himalayas has been receding several meters every year over the past decade..
Himalayan mountain climbers and Indian Scientists researching Glaciers tell the sad tale of how the Glaciers have been receding every year.
This can be attributed to the global rise in temperature happening rapidly for the past few years..
The CO2 and the other green house gases emitted by the major Industrialised nations increase the temperature of the earth. Of course, there has been an increasing share of the developing nations as well.
None of the nations, especially the advanced ones, agree to considerably reduce the emissions..
Secondly, the pollution of the river Ganges has increased many-folds over the last decade..
The pollution, one would not believe, starts at the Glacier itself. The last time I went to Gangotri, I personally picked up almost 5Kgs of plastic, major part of it being Kinley(Coco-cola), Bisleri bottles, Parle-G Biscuit wrappers and Gutka packets.. As the river flows along the plains, several small and mid scale industries send out the polluted effluents containing harmful chemicals without treatment into the river. The indiscriminate use of fertilizers and pesticides on the fields gets washed into the river as it travels along the Gangetic plains. Most of these pesticides which are banned in other countries still gets to be used in India. The cities along the River dump out its share of plastic and other household waste..
Thirdly the deforestation along the banks of the river at Himalayas cause numerable small streams that join the river to dry up. Further soil erosion and the landslides that happen as a result further reduce the depth of the river..These trees along the Himalayas hold up several thousands of litres of water as it rains on the hills filling up the underground water..
How can you help
Receding Glaciers: India though has a very small carbon footprint(CO2 emission because of vehicle, electricity etc..) per person, the combined footprint of its 1.2 billion population is a significant contributor to the climate change. Though it is possible to reduce the consumption by reducing electricity usage, car pooling etc, it is much easier to tackle the carbon footprint by planting trees.
We can plan trees along the roads or at local schools etc. Or one can make contribution to NGOs like Rachna which plant trees along the river banks.
Central/ State Govt. can help by allocating forest lands where citizens can plant trees in remembrance of near and dear ones or as a gift to the loved ones.
It is important to remember that the selection of the trees be carefully made to cater the needs of the local community.
Trees like Eucalyptus and Pine are harmful as they deplete the ground water and make the soil unfit for other plants.
Indian trees like Neem, Amla, Pomegranate, Coconut and other Medicinal trees can generate income which can help in sustaining the forest and plantations.
At a small level, one can start a garden at the roof of the apartment. This can reduce the electricity usage as it keeps the temperature of the building lower by 2-3 degree Celcius.
Besides, it reduces the dust by giving a green cover..
Pollution Caused by Plastic Bottles/ Fertilizers/ Pesticides.
Most of the plastic wastes that are thrown at the Glacier and along the bank of the river includes plastic mineral water bottles, Biscuit and Chocolate covers, Gutka packets etc.
Though I had written letters to the Corporate offices of Coca-Cola, Parle-G about this problem, there has been no replies.
Though there is increasing awareness on harmful effects of plastic on the ecology among the pilgrims, incidents of plastic litter do happen once in a while.
It is high time, these companies must stop distributing plastic bottles and instead keep 30litre cans at various places, where people can pay and refill their personal water bottles.
This has to be done at least in Himalayan belts and other ecologically sensitive areas.
This small gesture from them, can make a major impact.
Parle-G, Cadbury’s, Nestle could make bio-degradable packets for the products sold at these places.
Similarly, there is a need for educating the public at large about the indiscriminate use of pesticides and fertilizers in India.
The food products available in India like rice, pulses, oil, vegetables, spices, milk etc contain highest amount of pesticides in the world.
So much so that they are considered unfit for consumption in most of the countries..
Organic farming and its benefits has to be popularized among the public and the farmers.
Contrary to the advertized belief that we need fertilizers and pesticides for excess production of food, the truth is that food often gets rotten in central warehouses and local stockists while people die of hunger.
The problem with food is related to logistics. Distribution and storage should be done at State level and Central level with a better coordination.
If half of the population starts planting trees around their local vicinities, this can make a huge impact. Govt must allocate places where trees can be grown. This information must be centralized such that the location of plantation is easily available to the general public.
Govt must allocate forest areas along the mountains around rivers where trees could be grown.These trees would collect the rain water efficiently and store it as ground water..
The Govt needs to work with local NGOs to build aquafiers along the mountains..
With Google maps having resolution to distinguish trees, this should be possible to do.
Participation of Govt. is important to avoid these trees getting cut later in the name of development.