HARIDWAR // A spiritual group is making its priority the cleanup of the badly polluted 2,525-kilometre Ganges, the holiest of all rivers for Hindus.
The Gayatri Parivar Hindu movement has already begun cleaning the river in patches across the country, but said the entire stretch has to be given a facelift - at one go if possible.
"It will be a hugely challenging task, but this is our dream," explained Kedar Prasad Dubey, a former State Bank of India officer who is one of the key persons involved in the project.
Mr Dubey said the project will start with a survey to find out the number of stepped accesses along the river, the extent of pollution and the number of volunteers needed for what would be an unprecedented enterprise.
"We will also create public awareness on the necessity to keep the Ganges clean and litter-free," said Mr Dubey.
The Ganges originates in Uttarakahand, at 20,549 metres above sea level. It passes through the states of Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Jharkhand and West Bengal in India before entering Bangladesh, where it flows into the Bay of Bengal.
The Ganges basin is the most heavily populated river basin in the world, with more than 400 million people and a population density of 390 people per square kilometre.
The government's Ganga Action Plan, launched in 1986, is widely considered a failure, angering many Hindus who worship the river as a goddess.
The Gayatri Parivar, Mr Dubey said, has experience in cleaning rivers. On June 5, some 2,500 activists helped to clean the Ganges at Haridwar. On May 31, more than 2,000 men and women teamed up to clean all 10 accesses in Varanasi in Uttar Pradesh.
Earlier that month, about 5,000 people took part in cleaning the river Saryu in Ayodhya, also in Uttar Pradesh.
Thousands of Gayatri Parivar members and others clean the 615-kilometre Tapti river every month, said Mr Dubey.
Tonnes of waste and litter, such as clothing, polythene and plastic, footwear, bottles, rotting food, and animal carcasses are found in the river cleanups.
"It is so sad that people have no respect for our rivers," Mr Dubey said.