The Ganges ( /ˈɡændʒiːz/ gan-jeez) or Ganga (Sanskrit: गङ्गा Hindi:
गंगा Urdu: گنگا Ganga IPA: [ˈɡəŋɡaː] ( listen); Bengali: গঙ্গা Gônga),
is a trans-boundary river of India and Bangladesh. The 2,525 km (1,569
mi) river rises in the western Himalayas in the Indian state of
Uttarakhand, and flows south and east through the Gangetic Plain of
North India into Bangladesh, where it empties into the Bay of Bengal.
By discharge it ranks among the world's top 20 rivers. The Ganges
basin is the most heavily populated river basin in the world, with
over 400 million people and a population density of about 1,000
inhabitants per square mile (390 /km2).
The Ganges is the most sacred river to Hindus and is also a lifeline to millions of Indians who live along its course and depend on it for their daily needs. It is worshiped as the goddess Ganga in Hinduism. It has also been important historically: many former provincial or imperial capitals (such as Patliputra, Kannauj, Kara, Kashi, Allahabad, Murshidabad, Munger, Baharampur and Kolkata) have been located on its banks.
The Ganges was ranked among the five most polluted rivers of the world in 2007, with fecal coliform levels in the river near Varanasi more than hundred times the official Indian government limits. Pollution threatens not only humans, but also more than 140 fish species, 90 amphibian species and the endangered Ganges river dolphin. The Ganga Action Plan, an environmental initiative to clean up the river, has been a major failure thus far, due to corruption and lack of technical expertise, lack of good environmental planning, Indian traditions and beliefs, and lack of support from religious authorities.