About five years ago, when Financial Times journalist and author Victor Mallet began living in Delhi, he was shocked to discover that the Yamuna — “this beautiful river of Indian legend and art” — was chocked with untreated sewage and industrial waste after it had passed through the city on its way to Mathura, Agra and on to join the Ganga at Allahabad. He wondered “how a river so sacred to so many Indians could also be so polluted and neglected” and then set out to record the plight of the Ganga.
His exhaustive journey led him to various key locations on the river, including its source at Gaumukh and Sagar Island and the Sunderbans at its mouth in the Bay of Bengal. This culminated in the publication of “River of Life, River of Death” (Oxford University Press/Rs 550/316 pages).
“My conclusion is that it is not impossible (to clean the Ganga) — but it is very difficult. Narendra Modi is the latest of several Indian prime ministers to announce plans to rescue the Ganga — in fact, I would say he has been the most fervent — but like his predecessors, he has struggled to implement these plans despite the availability of funds from India itself and from international donors such as the World Bank and Japan.
“Clearly, the Ganga has enormous problems of physical pollution from sewage, industrial toxins and pesticide run-off. Too much of the water is diverted for irrigation in the dry season, which can leave parts of the river without water before the monsoon. But with political will and public support — I don’t think anyone in India objects to saving the river — it can be done,” Mallet told IANS in an email interview from Hong Kong.
The important thing, he maintained, is to change mindsets and he noted in this context that it is quite common among devout Hindus to say: “Ma Ganga is so spiritually pure that nothing we throw in the river will sully her or make a difference.”
The author said that sensible holy men and environmentalists who care for the Ganga term this as nonsense — and the reason it’s not true is that the Ganga’s very spiritual power arises from its physical properties as a life-giver, as a provider of water and fertility.
“That’s why rivers have always been worshipped in ancient times, including in England. So if you destroy the river’s life-giving qualities through pollution, you destroy the source of her spiritual importance,” he added.
In the book, he also states that it is not impossible to clean the Ganges, “as river clean-ups in Europe and America have shown”.
Elaborating on this, he said: “When I was a child living in London, my mother always told me not to fall in the Thames because the river was so filthy that if I fell in I would have to go to hospital and have my stomach pumped! Yet today the Thames is clean — muddy, but virtually free of industrial pollution and untreated sewage — because successive governments and water and sanitation companies have stopped the pollution.
“The same is true of the Rhine in continental Europe and the Chicago river in the United States. The great thing about rivers is that you don’t have to scrub them clean — you just have to stop polluting them and the natural flow of the river does the rest.”
Mallet maintained that the record on the Ganga has so far been disappointing in terms of implementation, but hoped that there will be a change now that there is a new minister in charge.
“If you clean the Ganga by improving sanitation, you not only save the goddess, you also create thousands of jobs in infrastructure development, and save the lives of thousands of children who die each year because of bad water, poor hygiene and stomach bugs. Likewise, if India curbs its greenhouse gases — and this seems to be happening anyway because alternative energy such as solar power is now very competitive on price — then that will also help it to reduce the kind of air pollution that has recently been afflicting Delhi and the whole of North India,” he maintained.
Mallet went on to add that he learnt a lot about the mythology and the history of the river — and the history of India — in the course of his research for the book.
“In a way, India is so rich in civilisations and stories that you can never say you have completed your work as a researcher and writer. You can at least make a start, and also explain the contemporary political, social, religious and environmental issues that affect the river and the country as a whole,” Mallet said. (IANS)
New Delhi, Oct 1, 2017: Urging cleanliness be made a national movement, President Ram Nath Kovind said on Sunday that achieving the goal of “Swachh Bharat” will be true tribute to Mahatma Gandhi.
Kovind, who is currently in Maharashtra on an official tour, will visit Gujarat, the home state of Gandhi on his birth anniversary to pay tributes to the Father of the Nation.
On the eve of Gandhi Jayanti, the President said that Gandhi Jayanti is an occasion to rededicate to the ideals and values of Mahatma Gandhi, who believed that ‘cleanliness is next to godliness’.
“Cleanliness is not only the responsibility of sanitation personnel and government departments. Today, India is fighting a decisive battle for cleanliness and hygiene through the ‘Swachhta Hi Seva’ campaign.
“Let us also commit ourselves to ensuring public hygiene, personal hygiene and environmental hygiene. It is a multi-stakeholder national movement. Achieving the goals of the Swachh Bharat Mission expeditiously will be a true expression of tribute and regard to Gandhiji on his birth anniversary,” he said.
Describing Gandhi as a man of simple living and a moral preceptor, Kovind said that he gave a new direction to the country through his leadership.
“His philosophy of non-violence and peaceful co-existence is of increasing relevance in the present times. Through the symbols of Charkha, the spinning wheel and khadi, he stressed the message of self-reliance and dignity of labour,” he said.
Kovind will commence his Gujarat engagements with paying his tributes to Mahatma Gandhi at his birth place, Kirti Mandir at Porbandar.
Later, he will attend a function organised by the state government to declare Open Defacation Free status for rural Gujarat at Kirti Mandir.
The President will also inaugurate various projects including upgradation of Veraval and Porbandar fishing Harbour, upgradation of Navibandar, Miyani and Salaya Fish Landing Centre, laying the stone for development of Mangrol Phase-III fishing Harbour, announcement for development of Veraval Phase-II.
He will also foundation stone of Porbandar Phase-II, Navabandar, Mandhavad and Sutrapada Fishing Harbours and inauguration of Mangrol Rural Water Supply Augmentation Scheme of 45 villages at Mangrol, an official statement said. (IANS)
Mumbai, Sep 30: A day after 22 people died in a stampede on a railway foot overbridge in Mumbai, Railway Minister Piyush Goyal on Saturday said that 200 officers will be relocated from headquarters as field staff to enhance ground operations and that additional escalators are being sanctioned at crowded Mumbai stations.
“200 officers to be relocated from Head Quarters as field staff to strengthen ground operations and project implementation,” Goyal said in a series of tweets after holding a meeting with Railway Board officials here, in the aftermath of the accident at Elphinstone foot overbridge that killed 22 people.
He also said that to eliminate bureaucracy and delays, “I have empowered GMs to spend whatever is necessary on safety.”
Taking a lesson from the Friday stampede at Elphinstone station, Goyal said, “We are turning a 150 year old convention on its head, hereafter, FOBs (Foot Over Bridges) will be deemed mandatory not a passenger amenity.”
“Additional escalators sanctioned at crowded Mumbai suburban stations and thereafter for all high traffic stations,” added Railway Minister Piyush Goyal.
At least 22 commuters were killed and 39 others injured on Friday when a horrific stampede broke out on a narrow railway foot overbridge linking Elphinstone Road and Parel stations when hundreds took shelter there to escape pounding rain.(IANS)