The Ganges River
• Begins high in the Himalayan Mountains
and flows 1600 miles through India and
Bangladesh to the Bay of Bengal
• Provides water and transportation for over
400 million people who live in its river
• Known as “Mother Ganges”
• In spite of the river’s importance and
its place in the spiritual lives of Indians,
the quality of the water has become
– Chemicals used in fertilizer and industry
are washed into the river
– Human and animal waste
– Bodies of dead animals as well as
cremated remains of human beings
regularly float down the river
• A building near the Ganges River overflows with
wood and tinder to be used in cremation. Several
sets of stairs wind up the bank and around the huge
piles of wood. A cow eats hay near the shore where
a boat is docked. A few men are scattered across the
• Cremation along the Ganges River is common
practice for Hindus. Hindus regularly bathe in it,
wash their clothes in it, and even drink from it. Their
dead are often cremated and thrown into the river.
Because some cannot afford enough wood to fully
burn a body, the corpses that are thrown into the
river are often partially-burnt or unburnt. This, along
with sewage, trash, and other contamination, make
the Ganges one of the most polluted rivers in the
The Ganges River
• In spite of the pollutants in the water,
many Indians bathe in the Ganges, use
the water for drinking and cooking.
– Cities along the Ganges have the highest
rates of water-born diseases of any who
live in India
– Outbreaks of cholera, dysentery, typhoid
and hepatitis are common
• Polluted water part of the reason
The Ganges River
• What is being done?
– The Ganges Action Plan in 1985 to try to
clean up the river.
– Many sewage and water treatment plants
have been built along the river
– HOWEVER, the growing population of
India and the run-off from industrial and
farm production have meant that clean-up
efforts fall short of what is needed.
• Water Pollution Has Become China’s Most Urgent
Environmental Problem Today
• At least 300 million people in China do not have
access to safe drinking water
• As much as 70% of China’s lakes, rivers, and
streams are affected by water pollution
• Although legislation is in place China’s government
does not strictly enforce.
• Riverside chemical and power plants, along with
paper, textile, and food production facilities, are a
leading source of pollution of China's rivers and
• China’s longest river; flows 4,000 miles
from the northwestern part of the
country to the East China Sea.
• Passes through 185 towns where 400
million people live
• Pumping stations along the river take
water out to supply people with water
for drinking, irrigation, and industrial
• What’s causing the pollution?
– Millions of gallons of sewage are dumped
into the river along with chemicals from
agricultural runoff and industrial wastes
– Nitrogen from fertilizers and arsenic
(poisonous chemical) from industrial uses
are the leading pollutants
– Many species of plants and animals that
once lived in the river are disappearing.
– High levels of nitrogen and phosphates
lead to growth of blue-algae
• This growth reduces the oxygen in the
– Contaminated fish are caught and sold
• What’s being done to help?
– Building more water treatment facilities to
– Encouraging use of sanitary landfills
rather than dumping into river
The Songhua River, despite its pollution
and trash, is a popular playground for
Harbin residents in the summertime.
Lanzhou, Gansu province: A
resident takes a water sample from
the polluted Yellow river".