Iskcon Devotees on a Mission to Clean River Ganga

by Venkatraman on Oct 3 2007 5:16 PM

Five devotees belonging to the religious sect Iskcon are on a mission to help clean the Ganga, which is held sacred by Hindus but is today a highly polluted river.

"We have started a drive to create awareness about Ganga pollution. Our motto is to revive the long lost glory of the river regarded as the most sacred of rivers by the Hindus," Mahavishnu Swami Maharaj, an Iskcon devotee from Britain and one of the five members of the clean Ganga mission, told IANS here.

Iskcon is the International Society for Krishna Consciousness.

The five devotees are currently on a journey from Vrindavan in Uttar Pradesh to Mayapur in West Bengal on the water route to create awareness about river pollution. They began their journey Sep 11.

The Iskcon devotees said they took up the journey, as they were worried about the filthy condition of the riverbanks and the dumping of garbage and flow of untreated sewage waters into the Ganga.

"We came across around 110 corpses floating on the river till our journey to Patna. We also came across around 100 animal carcasses," Maharaj said.

Another member of the group, Rukmini Raman Das, from Columbia said they had distributed pamphlets and booklets to people living near different riverbanks during the journey to urge people to clean the river.

"It is a challenge for all of us to save the river," she said.

The team is also making a film on its journey.

In Patna alone, about 29 drains discharge 190 million litres of sewage into the river every day, according to a study by an environmental scientist of the Patna-based A.N. College.

Ganga water has been declared unfit for drinking and even for a holy dip. Tested samples of the water have revealed a high presence of cauliform bacteria.

"Garbage is dumped into the river, contributing to the growth of the bacteria," a scientist said.

Latest research has pointed out that the level of pollution in the holy river has reached an alarming proportion and the Ganga water is not only unfit for drinking and bathing, it has become unusable even for agricultural purposes.

According to an estimate, during its 2,510 km-long journey from Gaumukh to the Bay of Bengal, nearly one billion litres of untreated sewage gets disposed into the river, which, according to legend, was brought down to earth by King Bhagirath.

Despite spending over Rs.15 billion on the Ganga Action Plan since its inception in 1984, the river still remains polluted. The second phase of the project, which will start next year, includes setting up of sewer lines in eight cities of Garhwal that fall in its path.