ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Rendering the Perennial Lifeless

To hear the call of the Ganga, both political will and ethical responsibility are required.

To be a river, is to flow. It is the flow of a river that has been then put to “use,” to rationalise that it is thus, prevented from going “waste.” However, now this use has increased to such an extent that we are unable to decide if a river is “living.” In fact, it is difficult to find a living river, as its flow is diverted into tunnels to produce electricity; or it consists of only filth and toxic wastes; or it is assumed that it can be cut and twisted like a water pipe for purposes of interlinking. And all of this can be done in the name of worshipping a river, “rejuvenating” it when the “development” instead is scuttling its flow. It is difficult to decide if a being is living, if it is entirely on the mercy of life support. It is difficult to call a river living if its flow is manipulated to such an extent that its naturalness itself is in doubt, and when it is not allowed to carry out the geological and ecological functions inherent to its being. It is difficult to call a river living, if it is living only in fragments, violated in parts in a way that denies it an ecological integrity, and an ability to self-rejuvenate.

While other rivers are equally in danger and are no doubt equally significant, the Ganga has been in a precarious condition despite and because of the government’s added attention towards it. A “call from the Ganga” drew Prime Minister Narendra Modi to contest from Varanasi. However, on the lines of Hindutva, Gangatva has been used to promote crass emotions, when the real association with the Ganga’s well-being is missing. Environmental-engineer-turned-sadhu G D Agarwal passed away unheard, continuing a fast for 112 days in the belief that the Ganga’s call continues to be audible to the Prime Minister. Agarwal’s demand, as indeed has been a consistent demand in Uttarakhand, was to address seriously the phenomena of sand mining and hydropower development in the Ganga that has reduced its flow to a trickle at most places. The source of the Ganga’s perenniality, the Himalayas, are increasingly becoming dry, hollowed out, and made fragile.

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Updated On : 17th Dec, 2018
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