India’s new Prime Minister Narendra Modi plans to create a “Ministry of Ganges Rejuvenation” to tackle pollution on the Ganges river. The Ganges river, similar in length to the Mississippi river, is sacred to Hindus and provides water to over 500 million people, but has long suffered from extensive pollution problems. Mr. Modi, who ran as a Hindu nationalist, made a campaign promise to clean up the sacred river. The creation of this new ministry is a step towards fulfilling that goal.
However, cleaning up the Ganges will take a massive, multi-faceted effort from both private and public institutions. Pollution in the Ganges has many sources including industrial waste, sewage from cities, agricultural runoff, and religious practices. One particularly unique problem is the wrapping of religious offerings in non-degradable plastic that are placed in the river. Reducing pollution will require the cleaning up of industry, funding better infrastructure in cities, and education-outreach campaigns to teach people about the harm that can come from polluting the river. The Indian government has tried to clean up the river in the past, but has not had success. Hopefully the political capital of the newly elected PM will result in real, positive change for the mighty Ganges.