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360° View of the Sacred Ganga: A Tale of Contaminated Beauty

An estimated 4.8 billion liters of sewage flows into the Ganga river everyday. Less than a quarter of it is treated.

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The Ganges river is a major water source for 400 million Indians, but the stress and pollution have turned it into an environmental disaster.

Known as "Mother Ganga," Hindus believe that a dip in the river absolves a lifetime of sin. Here in the northern town of Devprayag, where the head of the Ganges is formed, the waters appear crystal clear, drawing villagers to perform ablutions.

An estimated 4.8 billion liters of sewage flows into the Ganga river everyday. Less than a quarter of it is treated.
The Ganges river at Devprayag, where Hindu worshipers perform ablutions.

But as the 2,500 mile long river makes its way through the densely populated plains of north India, large-scale drawing of water makes it nearly impossible for the river to maintain a healthy flow.

Further downstream in the industrial city of Kanpur, tannery-workers haul chemical soaked buffalo hides into huge drums and dump their run-off into the river. Industrial waste and sewage pour in from open drains and clouds of foam float on its surface.

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The river widens southwards, collecting debris from thousands of villages and cities, and reaches the metropolis of Kolkata – where people bathe and brush their teeth next to mounds of garbage.

The Indian government has proposed a number of efforts to restore the Ganges, but the $3 billion clean-up plan is behind schedule. An estimated 4.8 billion liters of sewage flows into the river everyday. Less than a quarter of it is treated.

Video editor: Hera Khan & Mohd Ibrahim

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