Team of women set about Ganga clean-up

Cleaning up the River Ganga. Image: CGAPP

An all-women team is leading a project to track plastic pollution in the Ganges river basin.

The project has been launched by Centre for Global Affairs & Public Policy (CGAPP) in India. The 2,525km long Ganges - or Ganga - is a vital resource for Asia, but it is threatened by human and industrial pollutants.

Personified as Ganga - the goddess of forgiveness and purification, by Hindus, the Gangees is sacred. It begins high in the Himalaya Mountains and empties out into the Bay of Bengal.

The surrounding river basin spans more than a million square kilometres and is home to over 650 million people. The plastic pollution project was launched at the end of April 2023 and involves an all-women team working across 12 locations in India and Bangladesh.

They will lead a variety of activities, including expositions, outreach, river expeditions and a summit in the Bangladesh capital, Dhaka. The aim is to counter the danger posed by effluent entering the river, including industrial pollution and plastics.

"Economy and ecology must progress together. A mindless pursuit of material growth alone would be ruinous for the planet."

Dr Anil Prakash Joshi, HESCO

The 15-strong team will include local representatives from academic institutions specialising in various disciplines, including urban planning, science and engineering, governance, and architecture.

Expos in Rishikesh and Varanasi will demonstrate plastic alternatives and innovative technologies for waste management, and outreach will involve local communities and civil society organisations. The project will also feature a river expedition from Prayagraj to Varanasi.

Participants help to clean up the Ganga. Image: CGAPP

Environmentalist Dr Anil Prakash Joshi, founder of Himalayan Environmental Studies & Conservation Organization (HESCO), is a botanist from India's western Himalayan foothills. His work includes identifying new uses for biomass- waste wood, plants and other organic matter, such as manure and food waste, and he is helping villagers launch and manage enterprises related to reusing biomass.

Speaking to the participants, he cautioned that "economy and ecology must progress together, and a mindless pursuit of material growth alone would be ruinous for the planet."

Joshi also called for building a broad-based alliance to address environmental challenges.