BY Justin Rowlatt
Can the sacred but toxic River Ganges be cleaned up?
Justin Rowlatt travelled its length, from the Himalayas to the Bay of Bengal, to see if it’s possible to save the revered mother of Hinduism.
The Ganges is one of the greatest rivers on Earth, but it is dying.
From the icy Himalayan peaks, where it begins, right down to the Bay of Bengal, it is being slowly poisoned.
The Ganges is revered in India but it is also the sewer that carries away the waste from the 450 million people who live in its catchment area.
Pollution from the factories and farms of the fastest-growing large economy in the world – and from the riverside cremation of Hindu true believers – has turned its waters toxic.
The Indian Prime Minister, Narendra Modi, promised two years ago to clean up the Ganges, but can he do it?
Can the sacred mother of Hinduism be saved?
The source of the Ganges lies among the soaring, snow-clad peaks of the Himalayas.
As a rose-pink dawn rises over the jagged teeth of the mountains, the valley where the river begins remains in deep shadow.
It takes hours for the sun to scale the great crags. Only then does a single shaft of sunlight finally penetrate into the chasm.
It strikes a glacier called Gangotri, suddenly illuminating its cloudy blue and white depths.
It is easy to understand why this is one of the most sacred sites in all Hinduism. Up here in the cold fresh air the great shimmering body of frozen water appears radiantly pure.