Hundreds of Hindu devotees take a holy dip in frothy, toxic waters of the river to mark Chhath Puja in New Delhi.
One of India’s most sacred rivers appears to be coated with a thick layer of snow. Except it is not.
A vast stretch of the Yamuna river is covered with white toxic foam, caused in part by pollutants discharged from industries ringing New Delhi.
Still, on Wednesday, hundreds of Hindu devotees stood knee-deep in its frothy, noxious waters, sometimes even immersing themselves for a customary dip to mark the festival of Chhath Puja.
The 1,376-km (855-mile) Yamuna is one of the holiest rivers for Hindus. It is also among the most polluted in the world.
The river provides more than half of New Delhi’s water, posing a serious health threat to its residents. It has become dirtier over the years as most of the capital’s sewage, farm pesticides from neighbouring states and industrial effluents from factory towns flow into the waterway despite laws against polluting.
In a city that already has the world’s most contaminated air, a dangerously unhealthy river is a concern for many. Yet, devotees flock to it every year during the festival, which is dedicated to the solar deity and is observed with ritual bathing.
Rajesh Kumar Verma was among those who offered prayers on Yamuna’s banks on Wednesday. He knows the water is harmful but stood in it anyway, unfazed by the health hazard.