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River sutra

india Updated: Jun 25, 2007 10:12 IST

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For hundreds of millions of Hindus, Ganga jal is sacred and its value goes up if it is from Haridwar. The other day I read a news report that the Ganga may dry up by 2030 thanks to global warming. I rushed to share this news with my family. My parents were aghast. After a while my mother said: “How will our next generations manage without Ganga jal?” My reply was a counter-question: “Is Ganga water really different from that of other rivers?”

My father thought for a while and then brought out a book by Mark Twain, Following the Equator. He read a paragraph: “I had heard that water of the Ganges is the purest imaginable and is the most puissant purifier in the world. No disease germs or bacilli can flourish in it; it kills them immediately after they are thrown in to it. Accompanied by Dr Hankin, Chemical Analyser to the Government of N.W.P. of Bengal, I took samples of Ganges water at number of places near Benares. When we added swarm of cholera germs to these samples, the germs would die with in six hours and when the same cholera germs were added to the pure well water, within six hours they swelled by millions upon millions”.

Hearing this, my daughter said: “I have understood everything. It is like this: the glacier from which the Ganges originates rests on a mountain which has special minerals that kill germs and keep the water drinkable even when stored for months. Dadi ma, you need not worry. When the glacier dries up, the mountain will be accessible. All that we have to do is to bring its ore and put in a container of water. That will convert water into Ganga jal”.

Amused, I asked her what would happen to the 400 million people who would be affected if the Ganges dries up. “It will not be the first time that a river would be drying up. All civilisations were ruined and reborn like this. People migrate and create new civilisations. Man has an inborn character to survive such catastrophes,” she replied.