India's river of filth

A Hindu devotee taking a dip in the polluted waters of the Ganges River in Allahabad, India.
A Hindu devotee taking a dip in the polluted waters of the Ganges River in Allahabad, India.PHOTO: REUTERS

2,723 million litres a day : The estimated amount of sewage generated by the 50 cities located along the Ganges River, accounting for 85 per cent of its pollution.

10: The percentage of sewage produced along the main stream of the Ganges that is treated.

1.5 million per 100ml of water: The faecal coliform count in the Ganges' waters. Water regarded as safe for bathing should not contain more than 500 faecal coliform per 100ml.

32,000: The number of corpses that are cremated in Varanasi each year, with 200 tonnes of half-burnt flesh ending up in the Ganges, according to one estimate.

7 milligrams per litre : The biochemical oxygen demand - which measures pollution - at the confluence of the Ganges and Yamuna River, indicating lots of organic material and many bacteria. The measurement was made during the annual Maha Kumbh festival in 2013, when more than 100 million worshippers converged on the river.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on July 26, 2015, with the headline 'India's river of filth'. Print Edition | Subscribe