More than 500 million people depend on the Ganges River as their main source of water. The Ganges River also holds great spiritual significance and is regarded as sacred by Hindus, who come here to burn their dead. According to some sources, 150 million liters of sewage is leaked into the river per day, representing the human waste of over one million people. In addition to the overwhelming amount of sewage, decomposing bodies also end up in the river from river-side crematoriums and tanneries release heavy metals and toxins into the river. Because so many people depend on the Ganges for drinking water, contaminated water puts millions at risk for water-borne diseases like cholera, typhoid, and viral diarrhea.
But despite a multi-billion dollar clean-up initiative by India, the river remains dangerously polluted. The Indian government launched a $3 billion clean-up plan involving the construction of new water-treatment facilities as well as breeding programs of flesh-eating turtles that can eliminate the waste of dead bodies in the river. Unfortunately, the plan has seen little action, and no new facility plants have been constructed within the three years since the program was launched.