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More Than 100 Dead Bodies Have Surfaced in the Ganges River

Authorities have recovered at least 104 corpses from a Ganges tributary in northern India this week, possibly left by families too poor to afford cremation.
January 14, 2015, 6:28pm
Photo via Rajesh Kumar Singh/AP

Despite Prime Minister Narendra Modi's bold campaign promise to clean up the Ganges River, it appears the polluted Indian waterway has a new problem: More than 100 bodies have surfaced in one of its tributaries in northern India in recent days.

Thirty floating corpses were initially retrieved Tuesday from a tributary in the state of Uttar Pradesh, according to a report from AFP. By Wednesday, authorities indicated that a total of 104 bodies had been recovered. Locals first spotted the corpses as vultures surrounded them as they piled up around the shore.

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While authorities have called for an investigation into the morbid discoveries, a BBC report suggested the bodies came from families that could not afford to cremate their dead. Most Hindus are cremated, and many funerals occur along the banks of the Ganges. Floating bodies are not out of the norm, but the high number of corpses at once is not quite as common. Hundreds of millions of people reside along the waterway, with 37 percent of India's population living within the river basin.

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Workers in Uttar Pradesh pull corpses out of the Ganges River. (Photo via AP/Press Trust of India)

Officials indicated that low water levels might have exposed the human remains. "The waters in the river have receded, because of which the bodies may have surfaced," Saryu Prasad, an official from the state's Unnao district, told AFP.

Following up on a campaign pledge, Modi established the Ministry for Water Resources, River Development and Ganges Rejuvenation in May. Subsequently, the government put $334 million toward an Integrated Ganges Development Project in July.

Plagued by sewage contamination, garbage, and floating animal carcasses, dead bodies dumped into the river, whether they are cremated or not, only add to the pollution problem in the Ganges. While Hindus still use the water source for religious rituals, it contains contaminants such as mercury, pesticides, and human feces, and is largely considered unsafe to drink.

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