<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Even as numerous steps are being taken towards cleaning the Ganga, Yamuna, and other rivers, researchers continue to suggest that various religious practices are responsible for polluting the holy waters on a much larger scale than toxic industrial waste.While yagnas (fire rituals), days of fasting, and walking barefoot to the shrine make up most Hindu activities, taking a ‘dip’ in ‘holy water’ to wash away the sins of mortals is a ritual often followed during various festivals. Even the immersion of deities after keeping them for days at home is another ritual causing damage to rivers.Every time a pilgrim takes a ‘holy’ dip in those river, they swallow copious amounts of toxic material flushed from power plants or the waste thrown in the river.In the latest trend, Chath puja in Delhi was observed by taking a dip in the pond at India Gate or at the already polluted Yamuna where huge idols of Lord Ganesha and Goddess Kali are also immersed every year. During the month of September, devotees flock to the beaches of Mumbai with thousands of Ganesh idols for immersion, days after which the idols often wash up on shore.Also, cremated remains are floated in the river, believing the dead will not attain salvation if the last remains are not immersed. This practice is adding to the woes of the rising problem of water pollution. According to a Rishikesh based NGO, Ganga Action Parivar, “When the river in Har Ki Pauri, Haridwar is cleaned for two months we collect a large quantity of wastes like matki, plastic bags, garlands, coins, etc. Not only this, Hindu’s mostly cremate ashes here. But these don’t harm the river as much as the idols made of cement, plastic, and other non-eco friendly things does which are dumped in the river. It resists the flow of water and makes it stagnant. The only way to prevent this is to use eco-friendly idols.”Poor Hindu pilgrims stand at their makeshift campsite. Devotees believe that taking a holy dip in the Ganges washes away their sins and paves the path to salvation. —Getty Images There are some religions which follow the practice of floating the dead bodies in the river which are then eaten by crocodiles. But with the increasing pollution even the habitat of crocodiles has been disturbed hugely. As a result, bodies now get stuck in the river plants or float to the banks adding to the degradation.“The bodies that are floated in the water to make sure it gains eternity, actually get stuck on the banks and infect the river and creates an imbalance to the ecosystem of the river,” said Vineet of Ganga Action Parivar.The Ganga was known to have self-cleansing effect but with the continuous abuse the losing its charm. According to Rakesh, a taxi driver from Uttar Pradesh residing in Mumbai, there is nothing wrong with the Ganga. “It is always needed and is done for good. Ganga can never be dirty, it is holy. Ganga water is used to cure all types of diseases and wash away sins,” he said.Water pollution experts estimate that around 32k human corpses are cremated each year in the Ganges river, Varanasi — GETTY IMAGESExpressing dismay over the deteriorating condition of Ganga, Saurav Tiwari a student of Benaras Hindu University said, “The Ganga river is not in a good shape. Along with industries, various religious practices have also joined hands in slowly poisoning the river.”Not only Ganga but the Yamuna in Delhi and the Mula Mutha in Pune get religiously polluted in the months of September and October.India’s chief sources of water are becoming increasingly unsafe for drinking and for aquatic life. The idea of implementing artificial ponds for devotees to take a dip and other alternatives have never seen the light of the day.

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The toxic waters of religion