Ganga River Pollution Essay Example

The water in most of our rivers is highly polluted. The pollution of river water is caused by the dumping of untreated sewage and industrial wastes into it. For example, the river Ganga which flows for over 2500 kilometres from Gangotri in the Himalayas to Ganga Sagar in the Bay of Bengal is being turned into a dirty water drain by the discharge of untreated sewage and industrial wastes emanating from more than a hundred towns and cities which lie along its way.

In addition to sewage and industrial wastes, the pollution of river Ganga is also caused by other human activities like bathing, washing of clothes, immersion of ashes of the dead and dumping of unburnt corpses in its water. The industries also discharge chemical effluents into the river water. The toxicity of these chemical effluents kills the fish in many parts of the river.

The contamination of river water can be usually found from two factors: (i) the presence of coliform bacteria in river water, and (ii) measurement of pH of river water. Coliform is a group of bacteria found in human intestines. The presence of coliform in the river water indicates its contamination by disease-causing micro-organisms.

This is because though coliform itself is harmless but its presence in river water indicates that other, more harmful, intestinal bacteria might also be present. The pH of river water is measured by using universal indicator paper. If the pH of river water is found to be below 7, then the river water will be acidic and hence polluted. A multicrore ‘Ganga Action Plan’ (GAP) project was launched in 1985 to clean the river Ganga and make its water pollution free.

Wells and tube-wells (bore-wells) are yet another source of water. Some of the rainwater which falls on earth seeps through the soil and goes down under the surface of the earth. Ultimately this water is stopped by some hard rocks and collects there. This underground water is taken out by digging a ‘well’ into the ground. This is called well water.

Such wells are a common sight in village areas. The deep tube- wells called ‘bore-wells’ are also dug into the earth which are much deeper than the ordinary wells and their water is drawn out by using water pumps. This water is used for the irrigation of crops and for drinking purposes.

When too much water is pumped out through deep tube-wells then the water table (level of water below the earth’s surface) gets lowered too much. This lowering of water table decreases the amount of available underground water.

In order to maintain the water table at a proper depth, it is necessary to ensure better percolation of rainwater into the soil. A scheme called ‘rainwater harvesting’ is recommended to stop flowing rainwater and make it percolate into the soil more efficiently.

Today, water pollution has assumed alarming proportions. It has emerged as one of the most serious environmental threats in India. Both domestic and industrial reasons are contributing to this problem. Excessive use of soap, soda, bleaching powder, detergent or acids at home and chemicals in the industries are primarily responsible for water pollution. Urban sewage and industrial waste flows into the water sources without treatment. Despite all efforts of the Government in cities and towns, only 10 per cent of the total waste water is treated and rest of polluted material directly flows into ponds, rivers and ocean.

Due to rapid industrialization, water pollution has already reached dangerous levels. Additionally, increased use of pesticides and chemical fertilizers in agriculture has also aggravated the situation. The dangers emanating from water pollution have severely affected humans, animals, and plants. In some parts of the world, some species are already on the verge of extinction due to water pollution.

Effects of water pollution on plants and animals

Increase in toxic substances

Due to water pollution, the river Ganga which is regarded by Indians as a sacred river in which they take a holy dip to purify themselves has also become highly polluted. The same is true of Yamuna, Gomati, Chambal as well as Jhelum rivers. If today, the river Hooghly is considered among the most polluted rivers in the world, it is only due to water pollution. Some time ago, the water in the Gomati River in Lucknow had become so polluted and toxic at one time that dead fish floating all through it had become a common scenario.

Harming growth of aquatic plants

Aquatic plants get severely affected due to water pollution. Due to plethora of moss in the polluted water of the rivers, the sun light fails to reach to the depths of the river which affects the growth of aquatic plants in the lack of photosynthesis.  In the polluted water of the rivers, some aquatic weed as aquatic ferns and water hyacinth start increasing. Similarly, the sewage water getting mixed into the water of the rivers, helps in the increase of fungus, algae, bacteria, etc which start to erupt faster.

Suffocating aquatic creatures

Increasing pollution in the sea and oceanic areas has become a threat. Polluted water makes the life of aquatic organism miserable. Water pollution reduces the level of oxygen in it. According to a survey in most of the rivers, the amount of oxygen in a litre of water has decreased to 0.1 cubic centimetre only, while this average in 1940 was around 2.5 cubic centimetres.

Different varieties of fish are the most affected creatures due to water pollution. Fish and other aquatic organisms start dying due to lack of oxygen in the polluted water. Hydrocarbons in the oil spread on the surface of the oceans due to which marine and aquatic organisms do not get the oxygen and they die consequently. Things have become so alarming that many aquatic species are on the brink of extinction.

Polluted water also negatively impacts the breeding power of aquatic life. It makes fish and plants deficient in their ability to regenerate and reproduce. Also, animals fall prey to a variety of diseases due to drinking polluted water.

Spoiling Natural beauty

Contaminated water is not only unsuitable for drinking but also for agriculture purposes. It is also responsible for destroying the beauty of the lakes and rivers.

Effects of water pollution on human health

Polluted water leads to the worst effect on human health. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), every year due to contaminated water 50 million persons become the victims of death. About 360 persons per one lakh die in India and over 50 per cent patients getting admitted in hospitals are the patients of water borne diseases. The situation in underdeveloped countries is even worse where over 80 per cent of the patients are suffering from the diseases born out of polluted water.

Spreading various diseases

Microbes, toxins and water containing unnecessary amounts of salts give rise to many diseases. Around the globe more than 80 per cent of diseases are due directly or indirectly to polluted water. As per an estimate, almost 2.5 million people in over 34000 villages of India are suffering from cholera. Millions of tribal villagers in Rajasthan are suffering from various diseases due to drinking dirty water from the ponds. Contaminated water contains a variety of disease-causing bacteria that results in several types of ailment.

According to the scientists, a large number of diseases in India can be attributed to drinking of sewage mixed water. Various diseases like polio, cholera, patches, jaundice, fever, viral fever etc are spread through polluted water. Polluted water  contains lead which when consumed by the humans while drinking water leads to producing various ailments such as joint pain, kidney disease and heart disease in them.

The waterborne diseases are infectious which spread primarily from polluted water. Hepatitis, cholera, dysentery and typhoid are the common waterborne diseases, which affect the majority of tropical area.  Apart from diarrhoea, and breathing problems, drinking polluted water causes skin diseases. If the polluted water gets stagnated, it becomes a breeding ground for mosquito and many other parasites which are very common in tropical areas.

Children often get sick if they drink polluted water and sometimes they even die due to intensity of the diseases.  As per an estimate, 13 children die per hour in India, due to diarrhoea caused by contaminated water.

Polluted water is like poison for human beings. Large amounts of chloride in drinking water deform the spine which becomes snaky and their teeth go yellow, start falling and moreover their hands and feet lose flexibility of the bones and their body deforms. It also increases the risk of kidney diseases. A large amount of sulphide in polluted water is the reason of various respiratory diseases and drinking water contaminated with urea increases intestinal disorder. Thus continuous intake of contaminated drinking water is the reasons behind various stomach related disorders and other diseases like lumps in throat, tooth decay, etc.

Composition of nitrate resulting from fertilizer and chemicals used in agricultural lands, waste dumps or pit latrines causes contamination of the groundwater. Such contaminated drinking water is the reason of blue baby disease in kids which changes their skin colour. In this disease, nitrate contamination in groundwater results in decreased oxygen carrying capacity of haemoglobin in babies, leading to their death.

Radioactive substances produced from nuclear explosions also reach the water bodies and makes drinking water severely contaminated. If one uses this water, one can fall a victim to terrible diseases like cancer. The use of such water also increases the risk of having children with disabilities.

Rendering drinking water unsafe

It is due to water pollution, the drinking water becomes smelly and distasteful. Micro-organisms present in the water gives the water unpalatable taste. When organic substances in the polluted water start decaying, it produces hydrogen sulphide and ammonia gas which gives the water very bad smell.

Affecting industrial units

The ability of industries also gets reduced due to water pollution as it affects the performance of industrial units. For instance, Kanpur’s leather units have got adversely affected by the use of polluted water of the Ganga.

Contamination of water bodies

Water pollution causes all water bodies such as lakes, rivers, oceans, and groundwater to get contaminated and certainly human activities are responsible for these conditions. Making self-interest their priority, man violates various established laws and regulations and drains various harmful substances coming out from the factories directly into the water sources. The harmful elements found in industrial waste include various chemicals, grease, oil, paint, iron, cadmium, lead, arsenic, zinc, etc. It has also been observed that some industry associations also drain radio-active substances into the water sources which destroy organisms and plants instantly and are extremely harmful.

The Ministry of Environment and Forest has marked some industries which are mainly polluting the water bodies. These are wine industry, petrochemical, skin purifier industry, paper industry, fertilizer industry, pharmaceutical industry, and sugar industry.

Effects on day-to-day life

Polluted water being acidic in nature also damages the structure of the pot in which it is stored which results in interruptions in water storage. Alkaline substances mixed in polluted water get accumulated in and around taps making them weak.

Diseases caused by pathogenic organisms in contaminated water

The factors causing most harm to human health through contaminated water are pathogenic microbes. Based on these, diseases generated by contaminated water are divided into the following main categories:

By virus – Jaundice (Yellow Fever), polio, gastroenteritis, common cold, infectious liver Sod, and smallpox.

By bacteria – Diarrhoea, loose motions, paratyphoid, high fever, cholera, whooping cough, gonorrhoea, syphilis, gastroenteritis, dysentery, and tuberculosis.

By protozoa – Pyorrhoea, dysentery, narcolepsy (epidemic encephalitis), malaria, amoebiasis, and giardiasis.

By worm – Filariasis, hydatid cyst and a variety of worm disease (various types of stomach worms).

Leptospirosis disease – In addition to organisms that cause disease in our body, various types of toxic substances harm our health reaching our body through water. The main toxic elements among them include cadmium, lead, nickel, silver, arsenic, etc.

  • Excess quantities of iron, manganese, calcium, barium, chromium, copper, cilium, boron, and other salts such as nitrate, sulphate, borate, carbonate, etc in water have adverse effects on human health.
  • The excess of magnesium and sulphate in water irritates the intestines.
  • In children, the excess of nitrate leads to the disease methemoglobinemia and generates stomach cancer by reaching the intestine.
  • Fluorosis is a disease caused by excess of fluorine.
  • Excess level of mercury in fish is dangerous especially for small children and pregnant women or nursing women. It interferes with the central nervous system development in the foetuses and young children.


Water pollution is dangerous for all life forms in this universe. Pollution of water leads to several illnesses. To protect human beings, plants and other life forms, it is urgent to find out the solution of water pollution and collective efforts by individuals, society and the government are required to achieve this aim.


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