Dams · National Water Ways

In the Pits: the Ganga River, dredged to death

Guest Blog by Nachiket Kelkar (rainmaker.nsk@gmail.com)

When human beings fall into manholes or die in traffic accidents on a highway they are all over the news. We pity and fear such news, and feel sad for the deceased, just because the whole event is so unfortunate. We are angered by the condition of traffic – that continues to remain appalling despite having six-lane highways that look deceptively magnificent. We wonder if these cases could have been avoided. It is therefore even more disturbing that not a single news item has covered a series of major accidents that have happened right in the middle of the Ganga River National ‘Waterway’ (India’s National Waterway No. 1; see Dams, Rivers & People: Feb-March 2016 issue: p. 1-7, 2016 for details[i]) in the last six months.

Over twenty people have died by drowning at the Barari Ghat (Image 1) at Bhagalpur in Bihar in this period. Offering prayers, taking dips, or lunging in for a calm swim, these people have slipped away as their feet have lost the ground all of a sudden. The river, scouring off the silt from under the concrete, has been catapulting their bodies into the deepening abyss on the fringes of the ghats. Many bodies have not even been found. Family members of many, whose bodies were found, must have never suspected that they would have to carry back their kin’s corpses. What made the same Barari Ghat, which people traditionally visited for years, so dangerous suddenly?

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