| || Born of the union between two torrents of ice that spring from the highest snows on the planet, and swollen by countless tributaries that also ﬂow from the Himalayan peaks, the Ganges has a basin that occupies a quarter of India. From Rishikesh, north of Uttar Pradesh, where it leaves the Himalayas, to the Bay of Bengal, India’s longest river (1,919 miles, or 3,090 kilometers) performs many functions. It is a navigable waterway, a reservoir for irrigation, and a sacred river dotted with places of pilgrimage—Haridwar, Benares, and Allahabad, at the conﬂuence with the river Yamuna, where the Ganges reaches a width of 2.5 miles (2 km)—to which Hindus consign the ashes of their dead. The river also disposes of 3,000 human corpses and 9,000 animal carcasses every year, as well as wastewater from cities, which is responsible for 75 percent of its alarming level of pollution. The quality and quantity of available water is one of the chief concerns of the twenty-ﬁrst century, and there is a need to reassess certain wasteful practices. Delhi’s seventeen luxury hotels use the same amount of water per day (224,400 gallons, or 850,000 liters) as the 1.3 million people who live in the city’s poor quarters.
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