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INDIA 27 Jan 2013 Ganges festival a huge draw for Hindus, a focus for environmentalists
The Maha Kumbha Mela at the Ganges River in Allahbad on 27 Jan could bring as many as 60 million people to the w

January 27, 2013 - NULL

INDIA 27 Jan 2013 Ganges festival a huge draw for Hindus, a focus for environmentalists
The Maha Kumbha Mela at the Ganges River in Allahbad on 27 Jan could bring as many as 60 million people to the waterway, the holy river of Hinduism. On the eve of the festival, held every 12 years, Hindus bathe in the heavily polluted river. Environmentalists are certain to use the event to draw attention to the state of the river and on the flagging Ganga Action Plan (GAP), India's most ambitious river cleaning project. The Times of India complained in February that what

INDIA 27 Jan 2013 Ganges festival a huge draw for Hindus, a focus for environmentalists
The Maha Kumbha Mela at the Ganges River in Allahbad on 27 Jan could bring as many as 60 million people to the waterway, the holy river of Hinduism. On the eve of the festival, held every 12 years, Hindus bathe in the heavily polluted river. Environmentalists are certain to use the event to draw attention to the state of the river and on the flagging Ganga Action Plan (GAP), India's most ambitious river cleaning project. The Times of India complained in February that what was missing in recent election campaigns was concern about pollution in the waterway, "the lifeline of India."

The dates are determined by the astrological alignment of the planets. The Ardh (half) Kumbh fair is celebrated every six years at Haridwar and Allahabad, while the Maha (great and complete) Kumbh fair always takes place only at Allahabad every 12 years. In Sanskrit, Kumbh means pot, Mela means festival or fair. Hence, the Kumbh Mela means festival of the pot. It specifically relates to the pot of nectar in Hindu mythology. The issue for environmentalists is that the river water is anything but nectar. Some 2 million people bathe in the 1560-mile (2510 km) waterway every day. People wash their laundry in it and drink from it, yet it carries untreated sewage, cremated remains, chemicals and disease-causing microbes. In the stretches near tanneries, the river is laden with chromium sulfate, which is associated with cancer of the respiratory tract, skin ulcers and renal failure. Arsenic, cadmium, mercury, sulfuric acid, chemical dyes and heavy metals can also be found in the brew. Certain stretches are regarded as septic.

Then-prime minister Rajiv Gandhi launched the GAP on June 14, 1986. It shut down some of the most egregious industrial polluters and allocated about US $100 million for constructing wastewater treatment plants in 25 cities and towns along the river. But these efforts have fallen woefully short, according to a analysis of Ganges issues in Smithsonian Magazine in 2007, which adds that a 2001-2002 government survey noted that treatment plants could handle only about a third of the 600 million gallons of domestic sewage that poured into them every day. The magazine notes that the volume has increased significantly since then, and many environmentalists say that the Ganges has become an embarrassing symbol of government indifference and neglect in a country that regards itself as an economic superpower. One of the experts quoted in the magazine asserts that "the only problem is that the issue is not a priority for the Indian government."

The Times of India made a similar observation in Feb 2012. Though political parties like the Congress and the Bharatiya Janata Party have included the Ganga in their election manifestos for the assembly elections, the newspaper noted, people are skeptical about their seriousness. (Written Mar 2012)

STORY SUPPLIED BY WORLD NEWS FORECAST CORRESPONDENT C.BALAJI, WHO IS AVAILABLE FOR FREELANCE ASSIGNMENTS IN INDIA AND THE REGION. email: [email protected] e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

RELATED READING:

A Prayer for the Ganges (Smithsonian Nov 2007)
http://www.smithsonianmag.com/people-places/ganges-200711.html?c=y&;page=1

What Can Be Done About Pollution In Ganges River? (Science Daily 1 May 2008)
http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/05/080501133444.htm

Ganga Action Plan is full of gaps (IBN 26 Nov 2012)
http://ibnlive.in.com/news/ganga-action-plan-is-full-of-gaps/26358-3.html

Ganga remains sidelined in poll rallies (Times of India 14 Feb 2012)
http://articles.timesofindia.indiatimes.com/2012-02-14/varanasi/31058399_1_ganga-action-plan-bd-tripathi-rajendra-prasad-ghat

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Date written/update: 2013-01-27