(An Indian Hindu takes a dip in the polluted waters of river Ganges in the northern Indian city of Allahabad June 5, 2005. The devastating impact of mankind on the planet is dramatically illustrated in pictures in the "One Planet, Many People" atlas published on Saturday showing explosive urban sprawl, major deforestation and the sucking dry of inland seas over less than three decades. REUTERS/Jitendra Prakash )

(An Indian Hindu takes a dip in the polluted waters of river Ganges in the northern Indian city of Allahabad June 5, 2005. REUTERS/Jitendra Prakash )

India’s new government will seek the advice of Hindu holy men on how best to carry out an ambitious plan by Prime Minister Narendra Modi to clean up the Ganges, a river that is sacred to the majority Hindu population.

Hindus bathe in the Ganges in an act of ritual purification, yet the 2,500 km (1,600 mile) river stretching from the Himalayas to the Bay of Bengal is full of industrial effluent and untreated sewage, its banks strewn with garbage.

Previous attempts to clean up the river, including introducing flesh-eating turtles to devour the charred remains of the dead cremated on its banks, have failed due to a lack of planning or coordination.

Modi, elected last month to represent the 3,000-year-old riverside city of Varanasi, has taken personal responsibility for restoring Maa Ganga, or “Mother Ganges”, as part of a broader push to husband India’s scarce water resources and improve standards of public health and hygiene.