River of Life, River of Death

River of Life, River of Death : The Ganges and India's Future

4.15 (71 ratings by Goodreads)
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India is killing the Ganges, and the Ganges in turn is killing India. The waterway that has nourished more people than any on earth for three millennia is now so polluted with sewage and toxic waste that it has become a menace to human and animal health.

Victor Mallet traces the holy river from source to mouth, and from ancient times to the present day, to find that the battle to rescue what is arguably the world's most important river is far from lost. As one Hindu sage told the author in Rishikesh on the banks of the upper Ganges (known to Hindus as the goddess Ganga) - 'If Ganga dies, India dies. If Ganga thrives, India thrives. The lives of 500 million people is no small thing.'

Drawing on four years of first-hand reporting and detailed historical and scientific research, Mallet delves into the religious, historical, and biological mysteries of the Ganges, and explains how Hindus can simultaneously revere and abuse their national river.

Starting at the Himalayan glacier where the Ganges emerges pure and cold from an icy cave known as the Cow's Mouth and ending in the tiger-infested mangrove swamps of the Bay of Bengal, Mallet encounters everyone from the naked holy men who worship the river, to the engineers who divert its waters for irrigation, the scientists who study its bacteria, and Narendra Modi, the Hindu nationalist prime minister, who says he wants to save India's mother-river for posterity.

Can they succeed in saving the river from catastrophe - or is it too late?
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Product details

  • Hardback | 344 pages
  • 159 x 224 x 33mm | 506g
  • Oxford, United Kingdom
  • English
  • Approx. 20 colour illustrations and 1 map
  • 0198786174
  • 9780198786177
  • 482,211

Table of contents

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Review Text

The book is well written and easy to read, even for a non-specialist audience...there is much to learn from River of Life, River of Death, and it is to be hoped that Mallet will repeat his journey down the Ganges in a decade or two to update us on the fate of this extraordinary river. Kenneth Bo Nielsen, University of Oslo, Pacific Affairs
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Review quote

The book is well written and easy to read, even for a non-specialist audience...there is much to learn from River of Life, River of Death, and it is to be hoped that Mallet will repeat his journey down the Ganges in a decade or two to update us on the fate of this extraordinary river. * Kenneth Bo Nielsen, University of Oslo, Pacific Affairs * Fascinating. * Barney Smith, Asian Affairs Journal * Mallet's book is well-researched and richly anecdotal. * Uddalak Mukherjee, Telegraph (Kolkata) * The book is well rounded and comprehensive. * Kaveesha Kohli, The Print * The most impressive sections of the books (sic) are Mallet's sharp accounts on the various players... a valuable reference point to understanding one of the world's most intriguing rivers. * Jacob Koshy, The Hindu * Mallet's diagnoses of how the Ganges grew so diseased, and why governments have been unalbe to revive it, are astute and comprehensive. * Samanth Subramanian, Literary Review * Books of the year: "a wonderful achievement". * William Dalrymple, New Statesman and Spectator * Much to read and ponder. * Greenbarrel.com * In prose that is as sanguine and fluid as his subject, Victor Mallet's River of Life, River of Death charts the course of the Ganges, the spiritual and material lifeline of northern India, through the vicissitudes of time, space, and the hubris of men. Rich in detail and sparkling with the insight of a trained observer, Mallet's chronicle is an engaging and enlightening read. * Shashi Tharoor, Indian MP and author of Inglorious Empire * This book is an essential read for those who care about rivers and environmental issues in India. * Amit Ranjan, South Asia Research * Masterfully combining fascinating history with acute observation of India today, River of Life, River of Death is brilliantly effective in its central argument - that the threats facing the Ganges - from pollution, overpopulation, climate change, and often bad policies - are also the severest problems threatening India's progress. Mallet is at times brutally realistic about the prospects for rapid improvement, but passionately concerned that success must eventually
be achieved. The result is a splendid and important book. * Adair Turner, Economist and Chair of the Energy Transitions Commission * Victor Mallet demonstrates vividly why India needs to get to grips with the huge challenge of antibiotic resistance... I hope Mr Modi's policy advisers read his powerful narrative. * Jim O'Neill, economist, inventor of the BRICS acronym and chair of the Review on Antimicrobial Resistance * Victor is one of those rare foreign journalists who not only likes and understands India but, in addition, has the capacity to see its faults as well as impartially assess the efforts it's making to correct them. This means his coverage of India is always informed and thought-provoking. Even when sympathetic he's never biased. I, therefore, implicitly trust his views and I have always learnt a lot from his writing. * Karan Thapar, Indian television anchor * To try and fathom the wonders and follies of India through a river is grand ambitionand Victor Mallet pulls it off! * Gurcharan Das, author of India Unbound and The Difficulty of Being Good. * An extraordinary and fascinating combination of history, geography, environment, politics, religion, and much more. Written with affection for and understanding of a country of special importance. This is a river of unsurpassed significance on the world stage, whose flow and life is traced from the Himalayas to the Sunderbans and the Bay of Bengal. Not just the story of an often difficult past but also of hope for a possible healthy and attractive future. * Nicholas Stern, IG Patel Professor of Economics and Government at LSE * The book, like the Ganges, is stately, somewhat meandering, but fascinating and nourishing, and well worth a visit. * Peter Admirand, newbooks.asia *
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About Victor Mallet

Victor Mallet is a journalist and author who has reported for three decades from Asia, Africa, the Middle East, and Europe, first for Reuters and then for the Financial Times. From 2012 to 2016 he was based in New Delhi as the FT South Asia Bureau Chief, and is currently in Hong Kong as Asia News Editor. His highly praised book on the south-east Asian industrial revolution and the 1997-98 Asian financial crisis, The Trouble with
Tigers (HarperCollins), was first published in 1999. He twice won the Society of Publishers in Asia award for opinion writing. In India, he was twice awarded the Ramnath Goenka correspondent's award for excellence in journalism in 2012 for a feature about the rise of Narendra Modi, and in 2015 for a magazine cover story on the
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Rating details

71 ratings
4.15 out of 5 stars
5 35% (25)
4 48% (34)
3 14% (10)
2 3% (2)
1 0% (0)
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