(Dec.17, 2002)


The present state of river Ganga in Kanpur is dismal. Its sorry plight can be attributed to the reckless dumping of dead bodies, polythene bags, clay idols, human excreta, account books and floral offerings in the holy water. The superstitious mindset of the Hindus has contributed most to this growing pollution. Following centuries-old tradition, these devotees on religious occasions congregate to take a holy dip and leave behind worship materials on the ghats (banks) and in the river water.

To sensitise people about these non-point sources of pollution, Eco Friends launched a clean-up drive from November 15 to November 30 which coincided with the auspicious occasion of Kartik Purnima, a Hindu festival when thousands of devotees follow their polluting rituals and immerse idols and other sacred stuff in the river. Under this campaign, the organization sought the participation of a group of around 200 NCC cadets and the Ganga Praharis (Ganga custodians) including fisher folk, boatmen community, mahapatras and pandas who live along the river banks and depend on the river for their livelihood.

The 15-day Ganga de-pollution drive was done in phases. The clean up and campaigning went on simultaneously. The cleaning operation started at Massacre Ghat and passed through Gola Ghat, (Balu Ghat and Mishra Colony on Shuklaganj side of the river). A stretch of around 10 kilometre along the Ganga banks on both sides of the river was covered in the entire exercise. While generating awareness in devotees about the need to keep the Ganga clean, pamphlets were distributed to people visiting the ghats. Through loud speakers, Eco Friends tried to explain the devotees how synthetic colours used in idols contaminate the river and how poly-bags littered in the river kill the aquatic life.

During the campaign, the members of Eco Friends with the help of Ganga community fished out 12 dead bodies including four from Siddhanath Ghat and three from Gola Ghat. These were buried in sand at the ghats itself. Eco Friends and the Ganga Praharis joined hands to collect and safely dispose off the worship materials dumped at the Ghats. Four boatful of clay idols and pots, 50 kilogram of flowers, garlands and other biodegradable waste were buried in pits dug on the ghat. Around 3.5 tones of discarded polythene bags floating on the river was also collected. Eco Friends is trying to make arrangements to people in the plastic recycling trade to take care of this non-biodegrabale stuff and ensure its safe disposal.

Eco Friends has made a small beginning in cleaning the river Ganga. But people who pollute the river should be stopped from doing so. Because cleaning is not the solution to bring back the lost glory of Ganga. The success of the campaign lies in the fact that the Ganga Praharis have now vowed that they would not allow people to dump anything at the ghats from now on. They have also made it a point to spread net to prevent any waste entering into the mainstream. The community has decided to set up sign boards and hoarding to create awareness about the river pollution among devotees

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