To Hindus, the Ganges River is a live entity, a goddess — Mother Ganga — who deigned to make her way from the Milky Way to the valleys of India.
You’d think that keeping the river clean would be second nature to those who imbue it with divinity, but alas. The Ganges is teeming with heavy metals and industrial waste, and is awash in human excrement.
To say nothing of the untold number of corpses that are released into the holy water (photos here — seriously not for the faint of heart).
How do worshipers justify turning their beloved river turn into a putrid stew — one in which the level of fecal coliform bacteria is more than 200 times over the acceptable limit?
That too requires religious faith. Via NPR:
Sadhvi Bhagawati Saraswati, an American and prominent figure at Pujya Swami’s ashram, says many believe the Ganges is indestructible, which helps explain how Indians can consider the river holy and still pollute it.
“When you say to people things like, ‘Don’t put that plastic bag in the river, don’t pollute the river,’ they actually turn around and say to you, ‘That has no connection to her power. Pollution in the river has no impact on the divinity of the mother goddess,'” Saraswati says.
It’ll take a long time to change that attitude, as Prime Minister Narendra Modi discovered (he promised an accelerated cleanup of the river four years ago, but his government has yet to deliver).
One method to force polluters to mend their ways is to give the river human status and pronounce it fit for legal representation as if it were a person. That happened a few months ago. Hemant wrote about it at the time.
Two top state officials have been appointed as the “legal guardians” of the rivers [Ganges and Yamuna] and will represent their rights.
That exceptional tactic might curb corporate polluters, but will it make a dent in the number of dead bodies and the tide of human bodily waste? Old customs die hard, and religious ones are often twice as hardy.
(Image via Shutterstock)