Success would pay huge dividends in endearing him further to his core Hindu supporters -- and correcting the long-standing neglect of the river would perfectly demonstrate his fabled administrative skills. But nowhere is the scale of the challenge more evident than in the northern town of Kanpur, around 500 kilometres (300 miles) from the capital, which is known for its large leather-treatment industry.
A river believed to cleanse sins is used here as a giant sewage line for the largely untreated excrement of five million residents and a disposal facility for millions of litres of chemical-laced industrial waste. Some devout pilgrims still brave the obvious dangers of submersing themselves in the water, in which fecal coliform bacteria can be 200 times the safe limit, according to local authorities.
But even they are increasingly put off. Local boatman Vijay Nishad, who has been rowing religious visitors on the river for more than 15 years, says his business is suffering. "Around 100 or 200 people came to bathe this morning but they left without going in the water because of the dead fish and the terrible stench," he told AFP as he oared his boat....
A downstream view of the Ganges from a railroad bridge in Kanpur, shot by Faizhaider, Wikimedia Commons, under the Creative Commons 3.0 license