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from India Insight:

Give the public a role in Clean Ganga project, says Rajendra Pachauri

India's holiest river is due for a clean-up, with Prime Minister Narendra Modi taking personal responsibility for restoring the Ganga and ridding the 2,500 km long river of industrial effluents and untreated sewage.

Uma Bharti, Modi's minister for water resources and Ganges rejuvenation, has said the river would be clean in three years. Earlier this month, India’s Supreme Court asked the government for a roadmap on the project so that the court could monitor it.

Rajendra Pachauri, chairman of the U.N.'s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), spoke to Reuters on the Ganga project, the need for transparency and how the public could help.

Edited excerpts from the interview:

Q: A lot of government money has been spent since 1986 on cleaning the Ganga and the new government has created a separate ministry for it. Where do you think we have fallen short?
A: Frankly, this is symptomatic of many other programmes where government money has been spent on a large scale, without commensurate results. Government cannot implement this as an activity which is going to be totally under government control. If you look at the sources of pollution, they come from a whole range of activities. Even if you have sewage treatment plants, they are not functioning. Another major problem is the community is not really being involved. I personally think it will work if you make it a movement involving all the stakeholders. Central government can be releasing money, but where is the assurance that the money is utilized properly for the right purposes? What you really need is the mobilization of all the stakeholders … I have talked to her [Bharti] on the subject and I think she realizes fully that this is not something the government alone can do. In the community, you might set up bodies that act as whistle-blowers. If somebody continues the violation, then there has to be some means through which it is reported, and action can be taken.

from Photographers' Blog:

The biggest show on Earth

Allahabad, India

By Ahmad Masood

The Maha Kumbh Mela, or the Grand Pitcher Festival, is one of the biggest gatherings of people on earth; it takes place every 12 years and goes on for 55 days, in one of four cities in India : Allahabad, Ujjain, Haridwar and Nashik.

I moved to India from Afghanistan last year and the Mela, as it is called, was one of the assignments I wanted to cover.

from Photographers' Blog:

The cycle of life and death

By Adnan Abidi

“Ganges is Holy,” said my boatman as I pointed my camera to photograph devotees half submerged in the blackish brown waters of the sacred river, the second most polluted in India. It was my third day on a photography assignment on Bihar- a sprawling state on the Gangetic plains of eastern India. My brief was to cover the overall progress of Bihar, hence I planned to photograph a bridge under construction over this sacred river. After a couple of shots with my wide angle lens I shifted to telephoto and as I zoomed in I saw a crow, a crow savoring or maybe just sitting on a corpse.

The boatman wasn't as shocked as I was. This was no extraordinary sight for him. He continued to praise the progress of the state, and its new efficient minister but said things will not change overnight. On seeing me still shocked about the corpse he revealed that as Hinduism describes Moksha as liberation from the cycle of life and death, freedom forever from earthly miseries and sufferings, the holy river Ganges is believed to be a pathway to attain Moksha. And Hindus believe that dying on the banks of this holy river enable a soul to attain Moksha. So at very short intervals, sometime just weeks, people here see corpses floating on the river, and its an accepted phenomenon. He said that's the way of life here and still there was progress!

from FaithWorld:

Conservation, religion join to save Ganges dolphin

gangesAs the sun sets over a serene stretch of the mighty Ganges, a pair of smooth, grey dolphins arch gracefully out of the water, bringing hope that wildlife can again call India's great river home. (Photo: Ganges sunset in Allahabad,  31 Dec 2008/Jitendra Prakash)

Millions of Indians along the banks of the 2,500 km (1,550 mile)-long Ganges depend on the river, but unchecked levels of agricultural, industrial and domestic waste have poured in over the past decades, threatening the wildlife.

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