Welcome to the Archives

The Ganga’s Last Roar

From Tehelka Magazine, Vol 5, Issue 28, Dated July 19, 2008

Mega dams. Crumbling mountains. Collapsing villages. India’s mightiest river is being chained to kilometres of man-made tunnels. TUSHA MITTAL travels up to Gangotri, tracking a disaster in the making

ALL NIGHT, damp unruly winds have been raking the Himalayan slopes, showering the Bhagirathi valley with torrents of rain. At night, the river flows with a vociferous thud, numbing everything else. At night, the outlines of dynamite are just a blur; it is easy to forget.

But now, day is about to break. Soon the first slivers of sunlight will slant their way over tall timber trees, dive inside the Ganga as she crashes against the rocks, and warm the backs of the endangered Ganges dolphin and Hilsa fish migra t ing upstream to Gangotri for their hatching season. In ashrams all along the river bank, saffron priests brace themselves for a holy dip. Villages begin to buzz with routine.

But morning sharpens other shapes and sounds. The high-pitched droning of drilling machines. Yellow helmets. Vacant fields of concrete. Winds howl inside grotesque, hollow tunnels. Sunlight is caught in the wedges of turbines, some churning, some still. Every mega watt of lost electricity costs the nation four to six crores. [more]