Thinking Citizen Blog — Rivers (I) — The Ganges

John Muresianu
3 min readApr 15, 2020


Thinking Citizen Blog: Wednesday is Climate Change, the Environment, and Sustainability Day

Today’s Topic: Rivers (I) — The Ganges — “holy, deadly”

This is the first in a new series on the world’s great rivers. Today, the Ganges — the longest river in India (roughly 1600 miles). 400 MM people live in the Ganges Basin. Sacred to Hindus. A public health nightmare. Experts — please chime in. Correct, elaborate, elucidate.

GEOGRAPHY: from the Himalayas to the Bay of Bengal

1. The Ganges has two headstreams: the Alaknanda (accounts for more of the flow) and the Bhagirathi (the legendary source). They meet in a town called Devprayag.

2. The Yamuna merges with the Ganges at Triveni Sangam, the site of the Kumbh Mela, the largest Hindu ritual gathering.

3. In Bangladesh, the Ganges joins the Jamuna (a tributary of the Brahmaputra) to form the largest delta on earth.

RELIGION — the “Mother Ganges” — bathing brings atonement for sins, burial there salvation (“Moksha”)

1. “O Mother! … Necklace adorning the worlds! Banner rising to heaven!
I ask that I may leave of this body on your banks, Drinking your water, rolling in your waves, Remembering your name, bestowing my gaze upon you.” (Gangashtakam)

2. “I come as an orphan to you, moist with love. I come without refuge to you, giver of sacred rest. I come a fallen man to you, uplifter of all. I come undone by disease to you, the perfect physician. I come, my heart dry with thirst, to you, ocean of sweet wine. Do with me whatever you will.” (Jaganatha, 17th century)

3. “the melodious, the fortunate, the cow that gives much milk, the eternally pure, the delightful, the body that is full of fish, affords delight to the eye and leaps over mountains in sport, the bedding that bestows water and happiness, and the friend or benefactor of all that lives.” (Wikipedia)


1. “Urban sewage, animal waste, pesticides, fertilizers, industrial metals and rivulets of ashes from cremated bodies.” (NYT, “Danger in the Ganges”)

2. But even in the narrow gorges of the Himalayas, the levels of antibiotic-resistant bacteria are “astronomically high.” (Prof. Shaikh Ziauddin Ahammad, Indian Institute of Technology.)

3. The fault line between clean and polluted appears to be the pilgrimage destination of Rishikesh. “The population is about 100,000 in winter, but in the pilgrimage-vacation season, it can swell to 500,000. The city’s sewage treatment plant can handle the waste of only 78,000 people.” (Ahammad)

NB: Rishikesh is the “Yoga Capital of the World.” Past Western pilgrims include the Beatles, Steve Jobs, and Prince Charles and Camilla Parker Bowles.

The Ganges: holy, deadly river


Please share the coolest thing you learned in the last week related to climate change or the environment.

Or the coolest, most important thing you learned in your life related to climate change that the rest of us may have missed. Your favorite chart or table perhaps…

This is your chance to make some one’s day. Or to cement in your own mind something that you might otherwise forget. Or to think more deeply than otherwise about something dear to your heart.



John Muresianu

Passionate about education, thinking citizenship, art, and passing bits on of wisdom of a long lifetime.