The Ganges River is Dying, and Dying Fast

The Ganges River here is seen in Rishikesh, India. The river is an important river in the country not only for environmental reasons, but also for reasons of spirituality. Editorial credit: anandoart /

The critical condition of the highly-polluted Ganges River may be nothing new, but a new overruling by the Indian Supreme Court will likely not do much to help its desperate case.

River Denied Special Legal Status

This overruling replaces a decision made back in March by the High Court of the northern Indian state of Uttarakhand, where the 2,525 Ganges River originates. The High Court had ruled that the river should possess the same legal status as human beings (it may sound bizarre, but this ruling has happened before in places like New Zealand). The state claimed that attributing human level protection statuses would be a step in the right direction, as it would make any action which polluted or damaged the river a transgression legally comparable to "assault or even murder". However, the state was concerned about the complicated legal situations that could arise from such a distinction. The Supreme Court of India agreed, and officially overturned the earlier ruling.

Ganges Polluted By Factory Runoff, Human Waste

The Ganges River is a vital source of water for over one billion people in India. It is also an important holy site for Hindus in the country. Years of runoff from nearby industrial sites and tanneries, as well as pollution from human waste, have all been factors cited for the river's heinous quality. Advocates warn that without stricter government regulations and protection, the pollution of the Ganges will worsen steadily, leading to an increase in water-borne diseases among other ailments. Activists hope that stricter government regulations can still be implemented despite this recent government decision, which many see as a step in the wrong direction.


Rachel Cribby is a writer and editor based in Montreal.


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