The Ganga was ranked as the fifth most polluted river of the world in 2007. Pollution threatens not only humans, but also more than 140 fish species, 90 amphibian species and the endangered Ganga river dolphin. The Ganga Action Plan, an environmental initiative to clean up the river, has been a major failure thus far, due to corruption, lack of technical expertise, poor environmental planning, and lack of support from religious authorities.
Ganges was the second Nourse Line ship to be named Ganges. The first Ganges was built in 1861 and wrecked in 1881. Ganges was a 1529-ton iron barque, built by Osbourne, Graham & Company of Sunderland and launched on 25 March 1882. She was 241 feet (73m) long, 37.2 feet (11.3m) wide and 22.5 feet (6.9m) deep.
Ganges made three trips to Fiji, the first on 27 June 1885 carrying 523 Indianindentured labourers. She arrived next on 3 September 1899, carrying 464 Indian indentured labourers and finally on 21 June 1900, carrying 554 passengers. She also made voyages to the West Indies, arriving in Trinidad on 25 November 1890 carrying 568 passengers and arriving in Suriname on 23 April 1889.
Ganges was the first of a number of Nourse Line ships named for the river in northern India regarded as holy by the Hindus. She was followed by a number of other ships of the same name.
The first Nourse Line ship was the 839 ton sailing ship, Ganges built by William Pile of Sunderland and launched on 9 July 1861. The 192 feet (59m) long, 33.2 feet (10.1m) wide and 20.6 feet (6.3m) deep Ganges was considered a large vessel for her time and had a figurehead beneath the bowsprit represented Mother Ganges a symbol of fertility. She was the first of many Nourse Line vessels to be named after rivers. Immediately after being built, the Ganges sailed to India to commence trading between Calcutta and Australia where James Nourse hired her out to Tinne & Company which were involved in the transport of sugar, coffee, rum and molasses and slaves.
As the Nourse Line went into the business of transporting Indian indentured labourers to the West Indies, the Ganges made four voyages to Trinidad, the first on 9 April 1872 transported 408 labourers of whom 6 died on the voyage. The second trip on 11 May 1874 transported 383 labourers (5 deaths), the third on 10 February 1876 carried 379 passengers (3 deaths) and the fourth on 5 February 1878 carried 477 passengers (14 deaths). She also made a trip to St Lucia and on the return journey in 1867 brought 451 repatriated labourers back to India.