A layer of toxic foam has covered parts of a sacred river in India. The river Yamuna, a tributary of the Ganges, is close to the Indian capital New Delhi. Many Hindus gathered at the river for the religious festival ‘Chhath Puja’. Several people bathed in the river to pray to the Hindu sun god, although it was not without danger. For example, the toxic foam can cause respiratory complaints and skin problems.
According to experts, the foam is caused by industrial waste and raw sewage. The toxic substance contains large amounts of ammonia and phosphate, which makes it harmful to health. Despite the risks, many religious took a dip in the water to honor the Hindu sun god Surya, the main purpose of the four-day festival. One of those present, Rajesh Kumar Verma, stood in the water and emphasized that he was not afraid of the foam: “What fear? If we are afraid, how can we pray?” the man said.
Believer Gunjan Devi also said she had no option but to bathe in the water. “The water is incredibly dirty, but we don’t have many options. It is a ritual to take a bath,” it sounds.
Watering the river
Meanwhile, the government is said to have already deployed a dozen boats to remove the foam, but experts say it has already caused a lot of damage. “The river is dead ecologically. There are no fish or waterfowl. That has been the case for years,” said Bhim Singh Rawat of the South Asian Network of Dams, Rivers, and People (SANDRP). The boats attempted to spray off the foam with water, but the attempt was soon ridiculed on social media. “When you have to water a river,” someone mocked on Twitter.
Hazardous Pollution Levels
The Yamuna River is the most polluted in the New Delhi region. The Indian capital is one of the most polluted cities in the world, with very dangerous levels of air pollution. Although barely two percent of the river flows through the city, New Delhi is responsible for about 76 percent of water pollution. According to Rawat, pollution has a major impact on the local inhabitants. “Thousands of villagers are filling buckets with water from the river to bathe and drink from,” he concludes.
India is the world’s third-largest emitter of greenhouse gases. At the COP26 climate summit in the Scottish city of Glasgow, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced that the country aims to be carbon neutral by 2070.