Major General (Retired) Ajay Kumar Chaturvedi, a highly decorated  officer from The Corps of Engineers of Indian Army, is a post graduate engineer in mechanical engineering (combustion & Propulsion) from IIT Chennai, MMS from the Osmania University Hyderabad (LDMC), and M. Phil from University of Madras (NDC). He is a qualified Level II (Advanced) coach in Rowing and a specialist in training methods and bio mechanics.

Blog Published On : 24 Jan 2020 | dailypioneer
  • 24 Jan 2020
  • Maj Gen A K Chaturvedi

River Water Pollution – A New Threat to India: A Case Study of River Ganga


Water is absolutely essential for the basic sustenance of human being. No wonder most of the civilisations have come up on the banks of rivers or in the river valleys. India is no exception. In India every city has come up on the bank of a major river. Here it needs to be noted that fresh water is finite. Total water available in the world is 1,400,000 cubic km. However 96.5 percent of it is there in the oceans and only 1.7 percent is ground water, 1.7 percent is in glaciers and .01 percent is in the atmosphere in the form of water vapour.

Only 2.5 percent is fresh water and 98.8 percent of this fresh water is in the form of ice and only 0.3 percent is in the lakes and rivers. Finally, 0.003 percent of the fresh water is within biological bodies.1 70 percent of the fresh water is used up for the agriculture and with the changing crop pattern the requirement of the freshwater is on the rise. To make matters worse, the population is also exponentially rising. As per the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) estimates the water usage has been growing at more than twice the rate of population increase in the last century.

Water pollution is making matters worse. In case of the Indian Sub-continent, 30 percent of the major Himalayan rivers are biologically dead for fishing and usage for human consumption. Rising population is another factor which is affecting the per capita water availability. In this connection it is pertinent to note that in 1951 water availability in India was 5177 cubic metres per capita per year, which had got reduced to 1342 Cubic metres per person per year by 2000. With rise in population since year 2000 it must have become worse.3 Shortage of water and its centrality is going to cause major social and geopolitical stresses. Our neighbours like Pakistan, China and Bangladesh are having their own problems due to water scarcity. Since water resources of Indian Sub-continent are monolithic in nature, the shortage has its own international ramifications. Therefore, there is a need to address the water issues on priority.

In India, one of the most important river is Ganga which is the lifeline of a major portion of the population of the Northern India. Decline in its quality of water is affecting the health, agriculture and overall life style of a major portion of the Indian masses. A detailed study to analyse the problems of Ganga will be quite useful and revealing to understand the problems related to the river waters in India.

Case Study of the River Ganga

River Ganga is not a normal river, it is not only the life line of Northern India but also has a very special place in the spiritual consciousness of every Hindu irrespective of the fact whether that person in based in India or is a Person of Indian Origin (PIO) settled abroad. The 2,525 km river rises in the western Himalayas in the Indian State of Uttarakhand and flows south and east through the Gangetic plains of India and Bangladesh, eventually emptying into the Bay of Bengal. Enroute a large number of rivers and streams join it to make it a mighty river. The Ganga is a lifeline to 40 percent population of India who live along its course. By discharge, it is the fifth largest river in the World:-

Five Largest Rivers of the World by Discharge

Source: Maj gen AK Chaturvedi, “Water a Source of Future Conflicts”, Page 4

River Ganges is considered a sacred river by Hindus, and worshiped as the goddess ‘Ganga’ in Hindu pantheon. It has been important historically: many former provincial or imperial capitals (such as Pataliputra, Kannauj, Kara, Kashi, Prayagraj, Murshidabad, Munger, Bahrampur, Kampilya and Kolkata) have all been located on its banks.

Map-1: Course of Ganges and its Major Tributaries

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