Delhi – Thousands of people dressed in colorful traditional clothes and march to the Yamuna River in the Indian capital early Sunday morning. Hindu worshipers went to pray for the holy river, to plunge into the water and worship the rising sun, thanking them for giving the bounty of life to Earth
But this year's Hindu festival Chhath Puja was annoyed in the water and
The photographs show that the devotees are kneeling in the foam that has erupted from the stream in the heavily polluted river. Some women stood in the water for long periods, according to a religious ritual. Others couldn't resist taking selfies with foam in the background, which looked almost like snow or cotton candy.
Photos are indicative of everything bad in the Indian capital these days ̵
On Monday, Delhi launched a two-week rating system in a desperate bid to reduce devastating air pollution. Schools remained closed and construction was banned for several days.
The Yamuna, the main source of water for Delhi's 19 million inhabitants, is one of the most polluted rivers in India.
"The Yamuna is no longer a river," Mano Mishra of Yamuna Jie Abhyan, a group that runs campaigns to clean the river, told CBS News. "This is a collection of 18 sewage flowing into it, carrying a toxic sewage cocktail, chemicals, cleaning products, industrial waste and excrement."
Less than 10% of the sewage discharged into the river is treated by placing millions of people who use water at risk of disease. Some experts fear that the toxic soup.
The Yamuna is the second largest tributary of the Ganges, considered sacred by the Hindus. It stretches about 14 miles through Delhi before merging with the Ganges in the city of Allahabad, the site of Kumbh Mela, a major Hindu festival held every 12 years.
The Home Kund Barrage in the Indian state of Hariana, about 124 miles north of Delhi, diverts much of the Yamuna water for irrigation through two canals, long before it reaches the capital.
Mishra told CBS News that he believed in "The first priority of the Indian government should be to bring the river back."
Successive governments have set up complex plans to try to restore the holy river, but all have failed miserably. The Indian National Green Tribunal (NGT), which handles environmental affairs, compiled a roadmap for the revival of Yamuna in 2015.
But "two bricks were not laid in two years," Mishra said.
Activists say that the central government's fight against air and water pollution is not enough and not fast enough.
"We often see knee-jerk reactions," environmental journalist Bahar Dut, author of "Rewilding India: Nature Rescue Experiments," told CBS News. She said it was common for the government to show serious concern in the fall and winter when pollution increased.
"What is missing is a greater sense of urgency than the government; they can't wake up during the winters alone, "she said.