Kelly D. Alley

Volume 3, Issue 1, March 2016
pp. 08 – 23

Kelly D. AlleyKelly D. Alley (PhD, Anthropology, University of Wisconsin–Madison, 1990) is Alma Holladay Professor of Anthropology at Auburn University in the USA. She has been researching citizen interpretations and engagements with rivers in South Asia for two decades. Her book, On the Banks of the Ganga: When Wastewater Meets a Sacred River (University of Michigan Press, 2002), explores Hindu interpretations of the sacred river Ganga in light of current environmental problems. She has also authored book chapters and articles on religion and ecology and environmental law and justice in India. Along with students and river experts in India, she recently posted an interactive web site of hydropower and wastewater infrastructure at


In India and worldwide, the river Ganga (Ganges) has been a Mother, Goddess, purier and sustainer of all life for millennia. The cleaning of Mother Ganga, on the other hand, is a more recent invention. This invention has resulted in a series of complicated approaches that have had limited success in arresting the mounting pollution and deteriorating water quality of this sacred river. In the latest iteration, the clean Ganga mission is a rallying cry for the nation, reignited by the Prime Minister of the country. In this paper, I introduce the current iteration of river clean-up–Ganga rejuvenation–and consider key challenges and opportunities in terms of institutional constraints and possibilities, technological limitations and innovations, and governance entanglements.

Ganga, Rejuvenation, Wastewater Treatment, Bioremediation, Governance