People practice religious rituals in different parts of the world. Often, these rituals are practiced to worship gods or to develop ethnic cultures. However, some cultural rituals may affect ecosystem and healthcare services. Such effects may have serious consequences to the public health and nature. Thus, it is important to have clean ecosystem (Central Pollution Control Board, 2013).
The following analysis illustrates the Hindu cultural practice in the Ganges River that affects health care service. It describes serious health consequences of water pollution. Also, the analysis shows positive and negative considerations of Hindu cultural practice in the Ganges River.
The Ganges is the popular and sacred river in India. It is one of the biggest rivers of the world. It flows from Northern parts of India to some parts of Bangladesh. Millions of Hindu pilgrims worship the goddess Ganga in the Ganges River every day. Also, thousands of Hindu pilgrims visit the Ganges River to take a bath. According to the Hindu religious script Srimad Bhagavatam, “The Lord is so kind that he has spread the river Ganges throughout the universe, so that by taking bath in that holy river everyone can get released from the reactions of sins, which occur at every step” (Prabhupada, n.d.). Thus, Hindus believe that they get release from their sins by taking a bath in the Ganges. They believe that they should pay homage to their gods and ancestors by lifting the river water in their hands. Moreover, thousands of Hindus take part in the cultural practice ‘Aarti’, where they float clay dishes with oil lamps and flowers in the Ganges River every evening. Hindus believe that the Ganges River is flowing from heaven to the earth, so they perform religious rituals with deceased people in the Ganges. They float the ashes of cremated dead bodies in the river (Prabhupada).
Experts believe that Hindu cultural practices have serious consequences to the ecosystem and public health. Studies show that approximately one billion liters of sewage are dropped or dumped in the Ganges every day. Moreover, experts predict that the amount of sewage will have a 100% increase in upcoming 20 years. Also, the studies illustrate that thousands of human bodies are cremated on the banks of the Ganges. Some people release dead bodies in the river with the hope of showing the human soul a direct path to heaven. In addition, hundreds of illegitimate babies and sacred animals are dumped in the river with a religious significance. Also, reports showed that local administrations pretend not to notice the floating dead bodies of people and cattle. Indian philosophers believe that the Ganges is the home of Ganga, Indian goddess. She represents Hinduism and its old cultures and traditions. Thus, they describe the Ganges in the following way:
“Ganga or the Ganges is no ordinary river. Instead, she represents the essence of a civilization, form of culture and substance of a faith. She is in fact, a way of life. She is a living goddess whose importance in the day to day life of a believer cannot be described in words or through pictures” (Singal, 2008).
However, the World Health Organization (WHO) proved that the level of dangerous bacteria in Ganges is 2,800 times higher than the normal amount, which can cause serious disease to people, animals and plants. Studies show that the Ganges flows through 29 cities and about 50 towns. The overall population of these cities is about one million people. Hence, these groups of people face water related diseases. Experts found that the water and hygiene impact on people’s health. Polluted water may cause different diseases, such as malaria, schistosomiasis, and cholera. Moreover, the Ganges’ water pollution causes sensory or physical health problems, such as increasing body temperature and dehydration (Central Pollution Control Board, 2013).
Studies show that drinking, swallowing or swimming in the polluted water may cause serious health problems, such as rash, respiratory and neurological disorders, liver and stomach troubles. The polluted water of the Ganges may contain large amounts of nitrates, which cause a number of serious diseases. Moreover, high concentration of naturally occurring substances, such as calcium, manganese, iron, and sodium may have negative effect on the human body. Also, the increasing amount of pathogens and chemicals may elevate body temperature. The floating dead bodies in the Ganges River may create toxic chemicals. These substances initiate waterborne diseases. Furthermore, industrial wastes, chemicals and natural disasters pose a serious threat to the river. The increasing numbers of chemical plants, factories and private farms dump a huge amount of waste in the Ganges. As a result, the waters of the Ganges become more and more polluted. Besides, the seasonal religious events create a huge amount of food, leaves and other wastes in the river. Studies show that these wastes are increasing day by day (Central Pollution Control Board, 2013).
Positive and Negative Considerations of Cultural Practices in the Ganges River
Cultural practices may have a variety of positive spiritual considerations. Hinduism considers the Ganges a sacred river. Hindus believe that people can clean their souls by taking bath in the Ganges. Moreover, they show respect to the gods and their ancestors by floating burning lamps and flowers. Such rich traditions can help people to develop their soul and beliefs. Religious practices guide people to the love and respect. Also, they teach people to live an ethical life by following religious laws.
However, religious practices in the Ganges River cause a variety of effects. They create water pollution in a large number of cities and towns. As a result, millions of people become the victims of waterborne and water-related diseases. Traditional Hindu ceremonies pollute the waters of the Ganges every day. For example, burning of dead bodies on the banks of the Ganges or releasing of bodies in the river cause a serious risk of water pollution in the river and sea. Such activities may create poisonous water, which may kill people, animals or damage crops.
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