Facts About River Ganges

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Popularly referred to as the ‘Ganga’ in the Indian subcontinent, the river Ganges has entwined within its many tributaries and distributaries several legends, historical events, religious significance, political prowess, economic development, cultural milieu, and of course, geographic relevance! Regarded as the longest river in India, it is also the basis of livelihood and sustenance of a great majority of the Indian population.

Fact 1:
The Ganges is not just home to myth and mythology but also to a great variety of aquatic creatures that thrive in these waters. Unfortunately, pollution and the construction of dams have spelt the doom of many of these creatures; including the Ganges Dolphin and the Ganges Shark. The former, was in fact, declared as India’s national aquatic animal; however, not much has been done to really save their numbers!

Fact 2:
It is a known and accepted fact that rivers undergo a natural shift over the years. However, the Ganges has shifted to such a great extent in the past few decades that it is considered to be geographically havoc-wreaking! In Haridwar alone the river has shifted by about 500 meters! But that seems to be nothing; considering the 2.5 kilometer shift the river’s course has made in the last two decades in some other places in Bihar!!

Fact 3:
The Ganges is a significant part of the Hindus’ religion, rites, beliefs, and rituals. In fact, many places along the banks of this river are celebrated religious and pilgrimage locations. Some of the more popular being Rishikesh, Haridwar, Varanasi, Ujjain, Prayag, and Nasik.

Fact 4:
And now for some geographical facts – the river Ganges is about 1, 557 miles long. It is believed to originate from a glacier at the foot of the Himalayas, also known as the Gangotri glacier. This melted water from the glacier is joined by two other rivers, namely Alaknanda and Bhagirathi, at a place called Devprayag.

Fact 5:
The delta formed by the river Ganges is considered the largest delta in the world and goes by the name “Sunderbans”.

Fact 6:
The water from the river Ganges is not only used for agriculture, industrial development, and electricity generation but also for drinking purposes, cleaning, and bathing; not to forget religious rites and rituals!

Fact 7:
Economic and industrial development, around the Ganges, has resulted in its own share of problems; one of the major concerns being the pollution of its waters, thanks to the industrial waste and sewage that is being diverted it. It has also been reported that the pristine water is polluted by highly harmful and toxic substances, including chromium.

Fact 8:
The purification qualities of the river Ganges are legendary, thanks to the many religious beliefs that propagate a bath in the holy river as the ultimate tool of atonement for all sins! However, an environmental engineer also propagated something similar; with a more scientific basis though! According to D.S. Bhargava, the Ganges has self-purification qualities that allow it to kill bacteria and other organic substances naturally, resulting in oxygen levels that are 25 times more when compared to other rivers!

Fact 9:
The antibacterial properties of the river Ganges have also been explored by other scientists. A British bacteriologist, Ernest Hanbury, conducted a study which proved that the deadly cholera bacteria died within a few hours when put into the water from the Ganges!

Fact 10:
But as with all good things, the river Ganges is also showing signs of neglect and undue exploitation. Pollution, growing population, and indiscreet water usage are all having a say on the river. In many places, the water levels of the river have fallen to 10 meters from its original 60 meters! If things continue this way, it could spell the doom of a great river, not to mention a great culture and civilization.

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