Welcome to the blog for Himalayan River Runners! Since several of our trips take place on and around the Ganges, we thought it fitting that our first post be on this magnificent river. In case you've never been on the Ganges, or you've forgotten all those fun facts you learned in geography class, here’s a refresher!
The Ganges is 2,525 km long (1,569 miles) and flows from India to Bangladesh. It rises in the western Himalayas, in the state of Uttarakhand, at the confluence of the Bhagirathi and Alaknanda rivers. The Ganges flows 250 km (155 miles) through a narrow Himalayan valley and emerges from the mountains at Rishikesh, where there are splendid rafting opportunities. The river then flows south and east through the Gangetic Plain, passing through the pilgrimage town of Haridwar, and continues on its way to Bangladesh, where it empties into the Bay of Bengal.
The Ganges is the longest river of India and the most heavily populated river basin in the world – over 400 million people and a population density of about 1,000 inhabitants per square mile! It is a lifeline to the millions who live along its course and depend on it for their daily needs. The river has also been important historically, with many former provincial or imperial capitals located on its banks.
Pollution, unfortunately, has come to certain stretches of the Ganges below Rishikesh. Sewage, industrial waste and religious offerings wrapped in non-degradable plastics are the culprits. The pollution harms not only people, but also fish and amphibians, as well as the endangered Ganges river dolphin. This dolphin, by the way, is one of only four species of freshwater dolphins in the world. Various environmental initiatives to clean up the river are underway, and in December 2009, the World Bank agreed to loan US$ 1 billion to India to help save the river.
However, at Rishikesh and above, the Ganges is lovely, clean and perfect for rafting. Our Ganga Base Camp, near Rishikesh, is located on the largest pristine silver sand beach in the area. Here, the waters of the Ganga are clear and emerald green.
Here ends your quick intro to the Ganges. In future posts, we’ll talk about its spiritual and religious significance and why it is the most sacred river for Hindus.