"The Ganga, especially, is the river of India, beloved of her people, round which are intertwined her memories, her hopes and fears, her songs of triumph, her victories and her defeats. She has been a symbol of India’s age-long culture and civilization, ever changing, ever flowing, and yet ever the same Ganga.”

Jawaharlal Nehru as First Prime Minister of India, Discovery of India, Oxford University Press, (1946) paperback.

The Life of Ganga

The “Life of Ganga” can best be understood through a wonderful pictorial illustration and brief, accurate description from work created by Pieter Welteverde: Illustrations of the Life of Ganga

Ecology and Wild Life

Fact: The river is home to over 140 fish species, 90 amphibian species and five areas which support birds found no where else in the world.


  • A variety of fish which helped keep the river clean are near extinction.
  • Fresh river dolphins, once found in the Ganga, are near extinction.
  • Studies show tumors in zooplankton. As small fish eat them, and bigger fish eat the small ones, tumors are now in the food chain.

Reference: http://www.gits4u.com/water/ganga.htm#Ecology


Cultural & Religious Significance

Fact: Over a quarter of the Indian population, that is, over 300 million Indians depend critically on the river. 1.2 billion people live around the 1557-mile stretch of the river from its origin in Gangotri to the Sundarbans delta.

Sources of pollution:

  • Agriculture
  • Domestic and residential uses
  • Spiritual function
  • Animal husbandry
  • Commercial needs

Fact: Idol immersion pollutes the river and attempts are being made to ban the practice during the Durga Puja festival every year but thousands of idols are dumped into the river. Plastic bag use is also banned near the river but continues rampantly.


  • Industrial pollution from metal works (chrome, iron, copper, etc.) paper mills, dye and salt manufacturers, and leather factories. For example, Kanpur has over 300 factories along the river’s edge. Water-intensive factories use up fresh water but dump oxygen-depleted water termed “heavy” water that contains chemicals like chromium, nickel, copper, etc., and undocumented amounts of colored dyes and salts.

    Fact: Producing 1 pair of leather jeans requires 50 gallons of fresh water

  • Domestic waste from 32 treatment plant points along the river Varanasi has five such conduits, and all flow directly into the river unabated or treated.

    : Varanasi water contains over 200 times more fecal bacteria than maximum tolerable levels.

  • Free-range animals like cows, buffalos, dogs and all other land-based wild life bathe and die, decaying in the river.

  • The ancient practice of dumping dead human bodies or partially cremated bodies into the river continues.

    Fact: Over 100,000 land-based animals die and decay in the river.

    Fact: Over 10,000 bodies are thrown into the river every year even though it is declared illegal.

  • Chemicals used by over 100 million Indians like chlorine to clean wells and detergents to bathe and wash clothes.

Local Help


Water Consumption Facts

Fact: An average American person uses 123 gallons a day to live, while an average Indian person uses 20 gallons a day to live.

What is your Water Footprint?
Comparison of Activity Water used by Americans compared to Indians

The ‘water footprint’ of a country is defined as the volume of water needed for the production of goods and services consumed by the inhabitants of the country.


Average American

Average Indian


15-30 gallons
(57-114 liters)

10-12 gallons

Brushing teeth

1-2 gallons
(3.75-7.51 liters)

1 gallon


10-15 gallons
(35-57 liters)

2 gallon

Washing dishes by hand

20 gallons
(75 liters)

5 gallons

Washing dishes in dishwasher

9-12 gallons
(34-45 liters)

No dishwasher

Flushing toilet

5-7 gallons
(19-26 liters)

Eco-toilet: no flushes


123 gallons

20 gallons

Water Foot Print

2500 WFP

1000 WFP



Reference: www.waterfootprint.org


Consumption of water based on vegetarian compared to meat-based diets

American meat-based diet

Indian vegetarian diet

5 cubic feet of water used

2.6 cubic feet of water used

Reference: www.treehugger.com