The river Ganges flows from an ancient Himalayan glacier and runs over 1500 miles through the country of India until it empties into the Bay of Bengal. It is considered holy to Hindus, and on its banks resides the city of Varanasi, which many consider to be the holiest place for Hindus; not to mention, it supports one of the highest population densities in the world.
However, due to massive amounts of human and chemical waste, it is one of the most polluted rivers on earth. Two days ago, the World Bank agreed to loan India $1 billion to help clean up the Ganges River, an estimated $3.5 billion project. To me, the success or failure of this undertaking will signify whether or not India can truly become one of the great developed countries on the world stage.
Does India have the ability to temper the powerful religious undercurrent that flows through the Ganges? Millions of people go on a pilgrimage to its banks every year to bathe, pray, and sometimes leave the dead bodies of their beloved in the waters. In order to clean up, and keep this holy watershed clean, the Indian government must be willing to not only put its foot down on the religious and political agendas but convince the 350 million people in India that live in its watershed, and the hundreds of millions of other Indians that feel religiously connected to the river to stop bathing in it. Consider the task of convincing the entire population of the U.S. to agree on anything, much less when it involves religious rights versus protecting the environment.
Unfortunately the U.S. has not done a very good job leading by example. If India can pull off this feat, they will truly be a world leader.