Whether you realize it or not, people all over the world get their fresh water from rivers. Many in Las Vegas, for example, get theirs from the Colorado River, while those in Seattle get their water from the Cedar and Tolt Rivers. Unfortunately, there are unmeasurable amounts of pollution in the same places we get our drinking water — and the Ganges River is no exception.
What's worse, the Ganges River pollution is some of the worst in the world.
Over the years, it seemed like it has drastically intensified, which could have disastrous effects on nearby communities and ecosystems. Here's what we know about what causes it.
What caused the pollution in the Ganges River?
According to Britannica, the pollution in the Ganges River is mostly a manmade problem. The Ganges basin is one of the most populated places on Earth, which means tons of people regularly use it, and little effort is made to clean it. Various cities across India continue to grow, while untreated sewage, industrial waste, and human remains are released into it.
Major corporations in the area use the Ganges River to dispose of their waste and sewage. Reuters mentions that much of the sewage comes from drains that are directly connected to the river. Those without home plumbing do the same. Sometimes, the pollution is so bad in these areas, that the water turns red.
Likewise, as many can't afford cremation, the BBC reports many locals wrap their dead onto pyres and float them on the river.
However, seeing as the river provides water and fish to nearly half a billion people, this is a major problem.
How does pollution in the Ganges River affect people in the area?
Because the Ganges River has deep religious connections, people won't stop coming to it anytime soon. It's believed that the water from it can wash away people's sins and people are drawn to it from all over. But many who live along the banks and in the surrounding areas are feeling the negative effects of the polluted river.
For example, PBS states that experts say pollution in the Ganges River is linked to "India's high rate of waterborne illnesses." These sicknesses kill about 1.5 million children each year and "superbugs" have been found in water samples from the river that have been resistant to common antibiotics.
How does pollution in the Ganges River affect the environment?
The U.K. World Wildlife Fund states the Ganges River is home to a number of animals — including dolphins. At one time, there were tens of thousands of Ganges river dolphins in these waters, but now, there are less than 2,000. Part of that is from fishing, but a large part also has to do with pollution.
On top of that, much of the water is being taken from the Ganges River by people who use it for their everyday needs. This has gotten to the point where so much water has been removed that it is disrupting the "natural flow" of the water. This harms the wildlife in the area.
Is the Ganges River being cleaned?
There have been a number of efforts to clean the Ganges River but it hasn't done much to help overall. National Geographic states that science has said that it's not too late to turn things around for this famous body of water. But to do so means big steps need to be taken. PBS says that one of the most effective ways to clean it would be to fix the issues with the water's natural flow, but that's also the most difficult problem to tackle.