Neeri project is examining if Ganga has healing powers


NAGPUR: “Technology alone will not solve problems; social processes and structures will. We cannot take pride in our past without doing anything now,” said Rakesh Kumar, director of the National Environmental Engineering Research Institute (Neeri) on Wednesday. He was speaking on ‘Healing powers of Ganga: A scientific perspective’ at a talk organized by Vigyan Bharti at Scientific Hall, Laxmi Nagar. Kumar said a Neeri team was comparing the qualities of Ganga water to two other rivers, Narmada and Yamuna.

Speaking about the cultural practices regarding the Ganga, Kumar said 13 actions are prohibited in its sacred waters, like defecation, ablutions, etc. Kumar said the research team is comparing sediment from various stretches of the river to those from the Narmada and Yamuna to see what difference these practices have had on the river. “We are analyzing the viral genomes in the sediment of the Ganga, and found different types of phages,” said Kumar.

Kumar explained that the Ganga is a huge entity running over 2,525km (1,569 miles), rising in the western Himalayas in Uttarakhand, and flows south and east through the Gangetic Plain of North India into Bangladesh, where it empties into the Bay of Bengal. Describing it as the third largest river in the world by discharge, Kumar said nearly 26.3% area of the country is covered by the Ganga river, and 36 crore people in nine states are surviving on it since 47% of the irrigated land in India is in Ganga Basin.

Kumar said many non-governmental organizations and others hoping to save the Ganges have ignored the cultural influence of the Ganga and the myths associated with it, while only seeing the pollution as a matter of the people not caring about it. However, understanding the impact of religion is key to saving the Ganges, he said.

“Our challenge is to protect the river system,” he added. The Neeri research aims to clarify whether the belief that the Ganga River has medicinal properties is true.

When asked about Neeri’s work on the local Nag River, Kumar said since our headquarters is in Nagpur, we have chalked out solutions for some problems here.

Ajay Sancheti, a member of Rajya Sabha, said in his speech, “Just like people are curious to learn about new things, it is also necessary to make them understand the healing power of Ganga.”

Source: “The Times of India