Delhi-based firm Morphogenesis has recently unveiled a proposal for a project that will rehabilitate and develop the ghats (a flight of steps leading down to a river) and crematoriums along a 210-kilometer stretch of the Ganges, India’s longest river. The project, titled “A River in Need,” is part of the larger National Mission of Clean Ganga (NMCG), an undertaking of the Indian Government’s Ministry of Water Resources which was formed in 2011 with twin objectives: to ensure effective abatement of the river’s pollution and to conserve and rejuvenate it. The Ganges is venerated as a living goddess by India’s 966 million Hindus who strongly believe in the river’s self-healing properties; to have one’s ashes scattered in the river is symbolic of achieving eternal liberation from the cycle of reincarnation. But the hard reality of dumping tons of incompletely cremated bodies, not to mention gallons of industrial effluents and raw sewage, has caused India’s national river to become the world’s most polluted. While the Ganges sustains a tenth of the world's population, it also causes an estimated 600,000 deaths annually on account of water-borne diseases. With increasing densification of Indian cities—two cities from the country already feature in the top eight of UN Habitat’s recent list of world’s densest cities—there also exists an urgent need to provide spaces for community building and public engagement.
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