- Ganga water contains a significantly higher proportion of organisms with antibacterial properties, reveals a new study.
- Union Water Resources Ministry Commissioned the study.
- The study was conducted by National Environmental Engineering and Research Institute (NEERI).
- The research team assessed the water quality for ‘radiological, microbiological and biological’ parameters in Bhagirathi, and the Ganga at 20 sampling stations.
India’s holy river, Ganga contains a significantly higher proportion of organisms with antibacterial properties, reveals a new study. Commissioned by the Union Water Resources Ministry, the study – ‘Assessment of Water Quality and Sediment to Understand Special Properties of River Ganga’ found other Indian rivers containing the same organisms, but particularly high in Ganga.
The study was conducted by the Nagpur-based National Environmental Engineering and Research Institute (NEERI). The research team assessed the water quality for ‘radiological, microbiological and biological’ parameters in Bhagirathi, a feeder river, and the Ganga at 20 sampling stations.
Five pathogenic species of bacteria (Escherichia, Enterobacter, Salmonella, Shigella, Vibrio) were selected and isolated from the Ganga, Yamuna and the Narmada and their numbers compared with the bacteriophages are a kind of virus that kill bacteria.
Samples drawn from the Ganga contained almost 1,100 kinds of bacteriophage isolates than from Mana to Haridwar, and Bijnor to Varanasi.
“In the river Ganga, the bacteriaphages were detected to be approximately three times more in proportion than bacterial isolates,” the study’s synopsis said.
Earlier studies have highlighted bactericidal activity in the Ganga. With Hindus holding the river Ganga high for its ‘self-cleansing and healing powers’, this all seems to be in a way related to the bacteriophages, which infect and kill bacteria.
Originating in the western Himalayas and flowing into Bangladesh, River Ganga has great spiritual significance to Hindus, who worship it as the goddess Ganga, and regard its waters as ‘Ganga Jal’.
Now, from a scientific perspective, the mysterious claim that the Ganga possesses self-cleansing and healing properties has more to do with the ‘antibacterial’ elements. The river can retain high amounts of dissolved, even in extremely polluted conditions; and River Ganga is among the most polluted rivers in India.
Moreover, in the 1890s, British bacteriologist Ernest Hankin studied the bacterial properties of River Ganga and found that colonies of cholera bacteria thrived in tapped water quickly died in Ganges water. He used boiled Ganges water and filtered Ganges water in his experiment and established that while filtered water continued to show antibacterial effect, the boiled water did not. Hankin concluded that the factor responsible for the river’s bactericidal properties was heat labile but not filterable.