River of Life, River of Death: The Ganges and India’s Future
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India is killing the Ganges and the Ganges in turn is killing India. The waterway that has nourished more people than any on earth for three millennia is now so polluted with sewage and toxic waste that it has become a menace to human and animal health.
Victor Mallet traces the holy river from source to mouth and from ancient times to the present day, to find that the battle to rescue what is arguably the world’s most important river is far from lost. As one Hindu sage told the author in Rishikesh on the banks of the upper Ganges (known to Hindus as the goddess Ganga) – ‘If Ganga dies, India dies. If Ganga thrives, India thrives. The lives of 500 million people is no small thing.’
Drawing on four years of first-hand reporting and detailed historical and scientific research, Mallet delves into the religious, historical and biological mysteries of the Ganges and explains how Hindus can simultaneously revere and abuse their national river.
Starting at the Himalayan glacier where the Ganges emerges pure and cold from an icy cave known as the Cow’s Mouth and ending in the tiger-infested mangrove swamps of the Bay of Bengal, Mallet encounters everyone from the naked holy men who worship the river, to the engineers who divert its waters for irrigation, the scientists who study its bacteria and Narendra Modi, the Hindu nationalist prime minister, who says he wants to save India’s mother-river for posterity.
Can they succeed in saving the river from catastrophe ? or is it too late?
Victor Mallet is a journalist and author who has reported for three decades from Asia, Africa, the Middle East, and Europe, first for Reuters and then for the Financial Times. From 2012 to 2016 he was based in New Delhi as the FT South Asia Bureau Chief, and is currently in Hong Kong as Asia News Editor. His highly praised book on the south-east Asian industrial revolution and the 1997-98 Asian financial crisis, The Trouble with Tigers (HarperCollins), was first published in 1999. He twice won the Society of Publishers in Asia award for opinion writing. In India, he was twice awarded the Ramnath Goenka correspondent's award for excellence in journalism in 2012 for a feature about the rise of Narendra Modi, and in 2015 for a magazine cover story on the Ganges.
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