The river of delight, the river of life, the river that inspires, the river that the soul desires. Even the poetic injunction of this rough translation of a local folk song of Varanasi doesn’t describe the mighty Ganges in its totality. It can be said with utmost certainty that no river has ever had so much influence on humanity as Ganges has on millions of Indians. But sadly, the future of this mighty stretch that has defined civilisation in India is bleak. Global Warming, whose impact is increasingly being felt, is having its dangerous impact on Ganges as well.
The recent research on the primary glacier (Gangotri), that feeds the river has revealed that is shrinking at an alarming rate. The montane glacier is threatened from more than one direction. The monsoon (whose mystery is yet to be revealed in totality) has been more than uncertain in supplying for the snowfall that primarily feeds the glacier. Simultaneously, the rising global thermometer has ensured that the glaciers melt at a faster pace.Studies conducted by the Worldwide Fund for Nature have revealed that the 27-km Gangotri Glacier is receding at an astonishing rate of almost 23 meters a year. That rate, it must be reminded, was about 7 meters in 1935. At this rate, experts believe, the glacier has shrunk by more than 20% of what it was in the beginning of the century. As an aftermath, several valleys and morain chains that were once covered by the river have been exposed. The Gangotri dham, from where the Holy Ganges originated (as many devotees believe), is almost 19 km from the glacier.
As the glacier provides directly to almost 30% to 50% of water needs of all cities on the Gangetic plain, mere survival of a major chunk of population is in great danger. After cleansing the soul of millions that have come on her banks since time immemorial, the great river itself is in great danger of obliterating. With tonnes of wastage, that end seems to be getting closer and nearer.