a shitty situation: save ganga!

Most of the photos I take and post are what I consider to be beautiful images of where we are. And there is no shortage of beauty in Varansi (or anywhere for that matter). But there was also much more than a fair share of pollution in the air, on the ground, and in the water. I’m just going to talk about the pollution problem in the river now since that is where we spent most of our time in Varanasi. It was extremely concerning and was sad to see. 

I absolutely love the spirituality and faith of Varanasi and in no means do I intend to undermine it with this post. I am in awe of the worship and rituals, especially surrounding water….something I feel drawn to myself. However, not coming from a Hindu background, or from India- I have loads of questions and concerns (and shock!) regarding the rituals and practices that continue happen in the very polluted Ganga water.  

 A few of the things we learned:

  • According to multiple sources, Ganga is the 5th most polluted river in the world.  (What the heck are the first 4 like? I can’t imagine!!)
  • 80% of illnesses and 1/3 of deaths can be attributed to water borne illnesses. 
  • 200 million liters of untreated human sewage funnel into the river every day. As you walk by you see (and smell) the pipes emptying in. And then you see someone next to it bathing, and on the other side-washing their clothes.  
  • Acceptable fecal bacteria content in water (to swim in…hopefully there is NONE in your drinking water) is 500 parts per liter. 
  • The Ganga in Varanasi is 1,500,000 parts per liter. 

The cows bathe here too!
Chills ran up my spine when I saw multiple men swimming, scrubbing themselves/bathing, dunking their head under the water, brushing their teeth with the river water and GARGLING it. 

It wasn’t always like this; the pollution has risen exponentially over the years. Our friend, Kailash grew up in Varanasi. He told us that when he was a kid (25 years ago), their family would swim in the river for hours and they used to see dolphins every 5 minutes or so. 

What?? Dolphins in the Ganges? I almost didn’t believe him. But when I asked Siri, she confirmed it was true. Now all that’s left are snakes (we saw plenty) and some fish. 

Every night, during the aarti ceremony, floating candles/flower petals are lit and float in the river. It’s gorgeous!! But, it’s terrible for the river. 

left over floating votive
During cremation rituals, corpses are burned along side some of their possessions…all of this goes into the river as well. All of this on a daily basis. 

So, how does this continue to happen?? What is the government doing about it? What needs to be implemented to start to change this rapidly increasing problem?? Shane and I have been researching this in our spare time and a lot of what is coming up is lack of government policy and support (sewage treatment plants, water treatment, garbage collection, education, etc)……but we still have a lot to learn. One thing we knew for sure is we would not be taking a dip in the holy river at Varanasi. 


8 thoughts on “a shitty situation: save ganga!

  1. It’s a huge problem with many rivers in India. However, we had a real uprising on the issue with save ganga campaign. Indian PM got elected this time from Varanasi on the background of his huge commitment to clean ganga and the govt is said to have allotted millions of rupees. As per plan, I really have no idea will actually have to research on it and then can comment.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I feel like there should be an uprising for so many public services that are lacking….it just seems so unfair. We are just leaving Agra and the contrast of the incredibly poor neighborhoods against the Taj Mahal was crazy. Why doesn’t the high profits from the Taj Mahal entry fee go to help the surrounding areas?? So many questions πŸ™‚


      1. Hi.. Let us not forget that India is still a young country.. We are like 60 years old. In terms of having systems and all, yes India has done a lot.. In terms of implementation, perhaps no. While I agree, India has to upgrade itself in a number of areas, state of living, infrastructure but mam, money !?? Where to get all the money, India has huge debts from IMF and many countries and in an economic environment as volatile as last decade.. No government can go ahead and make all changes at one go.. So dheere dheere we go or slowly slowly in English πŸ˜€

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Your post does raise a lot of questions. Do the poor people of India feel powerless to change the situation? Do the wealthier people not care because they don’t take part in these rituals? Does the problem seem insurmountable? Thank you for bringing it to our attention. Along with the beauty of Varanasi comes the darkness. ..


  3. I don’t even know what to say about this one. How can this be? There is no other water to bath in or they do this because its a holy river or both? There’s poop running into their bath water! And teeth brushing water!


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