The Ganges is a river which stretches across Northern India and parts of Bangladesh. This river has a sacred place in Hindu religion, making it a popular destination for Hindu pilgrims, and it also plays an important economic role in India. Some scientists have raised concerns about the future of the Ganges, as the glaciers which feed its upper reaches are shrinking, and the river may vanish entirely as a result, dealing a devastating blow to the nation of India.
This river originates in the Himalayas, and flows 1,560 miles (2,510 kilometers) to let out in a massive delta at the Bay of Bengal. Along the way, the Ganges is fed by numerous tributaries, creating a massive river plain which is extremely valuable for Indian agriculture. The plain of the Ganges is one of the most agriculturally productive areas in India, supporting a large proportion of the nation's population, and India's population is heavily concentrated in this area as a result.
Hindus believe that the Ganges is a holy river, with the power to cleanse bathers from sins. Many Hindu festivals take place near the Ganges, and Hindus often congregate by the river on holy days, to bathe in the water and worship the goddess Ganga, the personification of the river in the Hindu pantheon. The Ganges is also a popular spot for scattering the ashes of the dead, and many ghats, or cremation platforms, are stationed on the banks of the Ganges for this reason.
The holy city of Varanasi is located on the banks of the Ganges, and the river is also dotted with numerous temples and other places to worship. Many visitors to India enjoy visiting the Ganges, because the river provides a fascinating glimpse of Indian life and culture; it is the center of both agriculture and religious worship, and the banks tend to be crowded with a very colorful assortment of people, animals, and goods.
The Ganges is heavily threatened by pollution, which is a major concern to many scientists who work in India. The water is heavily choked with pesticides, nutrient runoff, industrial waste, and biohazardous material such as untreated sewage. Attempts have been made to clean the Ganges, but they are hampered by imperfect regulation of many industries in India, and compounded by a difficulty in enforcing such regulations. As the river shrinks due to a declining supply of glacial melt, the Ganges may become a concentrated stream of pollutants which could be extremely dangerous to bathe in or use for agriculture.