Friends takes Dr. Elizabeth A. Guillette for a boat ride on the
Ganga. Here is her account of the experience.
on the impacts of pollution on human health to about two thousand
students from various schools, and hearing their perceptions of
the environment, did little to prepare me for today’s boat
ride down the Ganga. The boat ride provided true insight into
what is occurring to the river in Kanpur, and probably other river
settlements in India. Once standing as a symbol for religion and
health, the Ganga is destroyed and devoid of beauty. The beauty
is replaced with trash, plastic bags, wads of human waste and
city waste. I only wish the camera could record the stench that
went with the sights -breath-holding instead of breath-taking.
On the Kanpur side of the river, the direct discharge of untreated
human and industrial waste is evident to the eyes and nose. At
the site of the tanneries there was a tumbling waterfall of chemical
discharge. The surrounding earth was stained a vivid blue, with
a darker blue hue extending into the water. The stench now became
that of a nauseating, lung irritating odor.
appeared immune to the human impact on the water quality. Men,
women and children were drinking the water, taking daily baths
and cleaning their mouths amid the floating filth. Clothing was
being washed. There is a public toilet in the river itself, with
about 7 squatting people relieving themselves. Young boys were
swimming and at play in the water. Dead bodies were floating past
them. The royal send-off of the deceased has been replaced by
an easy and cheap disposal method of the dead. Most of the 10
bodies we saw in the two-hour ride were wrapped in gauze. But
one was a terrible sight – a woman, in traditional dress,
stared into space, with arms and legs outstretched as she floated
near a bridge. A group of boys, diving and swimming, were oblivious
to her, as though she was just a log floating downstream.
a river island, there are small agricultural plots. The farmers
walked along the banks containing the usual trash and plastic
bags to dip their buckets in the river for irrigating the food
plants. Nearby, fishermen proudly displayed up their catch, someone’s
meal for the evening. I ask myself what are these people really
eating and drinking. What assorted man-made industrial chemicals,
pesticides, heavy metals, bacteria, viruses are they ingesting?
One of the boatmen couldn’t answer my question, instead
saying his wife had been pregnant four times, with only one child
born alive. He was lucky, as other men and women were sterile.
Others had stomach and digestive problems and infections of all
types were common.
lucky some of us are to have clean water. Safe water should be
available to everyone. My thanks to Eco Friends for their Clean
the Ganga project.
(Dr. Elizabeth A Guillette
from University of Florida, USA
is visiting Eco Friends from Feb 22 to Mar 7, 2004.
She specializes in contaminants like pesticides and
its health impacts. )
(23-Feb-04 ): Contaminants and human health
Dr. Elizabeth A Guillette from University of Florida, USA is visiting