Running from the Gangotri Glacier in the Himalayas to the Bay of Bengal, the Ganges is the most sacred river in India. The spiritual, cultural, and physical importance of this river cannot be emphasized enough. It is estimated that the livelihoods of over 500 million people in India are dependant upon the Ganga, and that one-third of India's population lives within the Ganges Basin.
Despite the Ganga's cultural, spiritual, and economic importance, If we do not take action immediately to preserve the health of the Ganga, India may face serious food and water shortages, and the world will lose an important cultural centre.
Today, the Ganga is in danger from a number of proposed dams in the stretch of river between Gangotri and Tehri. These dams will not only severely impede the flow of the Ganga, but will also have cascading effects on the livelihoods of the adjacent human communities and the biodiversity and stability of the surrounding natural ecosystems. The submergence of land surrounding the Ganges will contribute lost habitat, hunting, and agricultural grounds. There is also danger posed to downstream communities from sudden high water levels when water is released from the dam, causing flash-flood like situations. In addition to these detriments, the loss of the Ganga will cause significant harm to the culture and identity of communities near the Ganges and India as a whole.
The mouth of the Ganges is by the Gangotri glacier. As global warming proceeds, and the Himalayan glaciers retreat, the Ganges will receive less and less glacial runoff. The UN 2007 Climate Change Report has suggested that the glacial flow may completely stop by 2030, at which point the Ganges would be reduced to a seasonal river during the monsoon season. It is also contended that global warming may have the effect of reducing India's rainy season, further reducing the overall amount of water available to the Ganges watershed.
All along the Ganges, industries are dumping massive amounts of pollutants directly into the river. To compound this problem, waste water from communities which live along the Ganga runs into the river untreated. Though the Ganga is known for its self-purifying properties, the sheer volume of pollutants which are released into the river every day are causing irreparable damage to the ecosystem and contributing to significant sanitation issues.