On Wednesday, hundreds of Hindu devotees in Delhi immersed in the waters of the Yamuna riverpollutef Yamuna river
, one of India’s most sacred rivers, to respect a ritual to mark the four-day festival of Chhath Puja which is dedicated to the solar deity. The Chhath festival begins with a devotee taking bath in fresh river water, sprinkling water inside homes, and making festive delicacies using fresh river water. But the river’s waters are noxious now. A vast stretch of the Yamuna river is covered with white toxic foam, caused in part by pollutants discharged from industries ringing New Delhi. The white froth, a mixture of sewage and industrial waste, formed over the last week. It contains high levels of ammonia and phosphates, which can result in respiratory and skin problems. In 2017, similar looking foam appeared on Varthur Lake in the southern city of Bangalore. 15 boats have been deployed by the government to remove the foam, but experts fear it has already caused significant damage.
“It is a ritual to take a bath in a water body so we have come here to bathe,” Hindu devotees say. Till now, people were used to watch bamboo barricades at river banks to prevent devotees from drowning, but on Wednesday, bamboo barricades were erected to hide the foam from public view. Despite the possible dangers from the substance, people still flocked into the river to celebrate the festival. This river is among the most polluted in the world. However it provides more than half of New Delhi’s water, posing a serious health threat to its residents. New Delhi city, home to more than 20 million people, already has the world’s most contaminated air in the country.