Sticking to an age-old tradition, thousands of people in Bihar drank water from the Ganga, which is unfit for human consumption, during the recently concluded Chhath festivities.
Knowing fully well that scientists and environmentalists have issued an alarming call to avoid Ganga water for bathing, devotees have not only taken dip in the river, but they also used the water to prepare offerings to the Sun God.
"We ignore the advise of scientists and environmentalists for the sake of faith to use sacred Ganga water. It is our belief that water of the holy Ganges is pure," said Sunita Devi, a devotee.
And she was not alone. Added another devotee, "It is a fact that colour of the water of the Ganga is not clear, it appears dirty. But we used it for bathing and to prepare traditional food for Chhath."
According to the latest research conducted by a team from the Patna University, the bacterial load in the river on some of its important
ghats has reached an all time high. The number of total coliform bacteria and fecal coliform bacteria is thousand times more than the prescribed limit.
R K Sinha, an expert of Gangetic Dolphin and member of the National Ganga River Basin Authority chaired by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, said the permissible limit of total coliform and fecal coliform bacteria in river water is 2,500 and 500 respectively.
The number of total coliform bacteria and fecal coliform bacteria at the Collectorate Ghat is over 1,60,000. While water collected from the Anta Ghat showed the numbers of total coliform and fecal bacteria is 1,60,000 and 50,000 respectively.
Sinha said that during their survey last week, they observed over 30 carcasses and 10 cadavers floating between Danapur and Fatuha near Patna
indicating one of the main reasons for increase in the bacterial number.
He said that the sample analysed showed that the water used by people for bathing or performing religious rituals including Chhath are under
heavy bacterial load, far more than the permissible number.
A few months ago Prime Minister Manmohan Singh voiced concern at the meeting of the National Ganga River Basin Authority over the discharge of 2,900 million litres of sewage in the Ganga every day. The PM asked state governments to send proposals for new sewage treatment plants.