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Alternative plan to avoid idol-immersion polluting Yamuna

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Picture Credit: thehindu.in
Picture Credit: thehindu.in

New Delhi: With Indian festivities knocking at the door, pollution owing to idol immersion is one of the most important concerns worrying the locales of the capital. Idols — some of which contain toxic materials — at the Yamuna Ghat in Delhi’s Kalindi Kunj area has added to the pollution in the river, police say. Though the Puja organisers are aware of the prospective cons of idol immersion and don’t intend to pollute the Yamuna, they can’t help it as there is no alternative arrangement for the same.

On Sunday, at least 200 Ganesh idols were immersed at the ghat leading to a pile-up of idols, broken earthen pots, rotting flowers, tattered pieces of cloth and sodden coloured paper on the banks of the river which is the lifeline of the national capital.

“Even after the immersion, no one from the (municipal) corporation comes to clean the banks. The locals collect the bamboo from the river bank for their own use. This practice is seen every year. The MCD comes to just put the road in order,” said Bhubaneswar, a local resident.

According to police, at least 200 Ganesh idols were immersed on Sunday. On Friday, more than 500 Vishwakarma idols were immersed.

“This adds to the pollution in the Yamuna but no alternate arrangement has been made by the administration. This will go on till the 11th day of the ongoing Ganesh festival,” said a police official from Jaitpur police station in south Delhi.

A large quantity of insoluble waste like wood, plastic, and toxic material remained floating in the river as the puja organisers left the ghat having performed the last rituals of bidding adieu to their beloved god.

About 100 puja organisers from the Jasola Pocket 12 Ganesh Puja Samity have been coming here for the past four years since they started organising puja in their locality.

“Every year we come here for Visarjan. There is no alternate arrangement. We don’t want to pollute the Yamuna but can’t help it. The government should make separate provisions for Visarjan. Every year the Yamuna gets dirty during Ganesh festival and Durga Puja, the government should do something about it.

“There is so much space near the ghat, the government should make separate arrangement for immersion,” said Somesh Lal, an engineer and a member of the puja committee.

“The sadhus and sants (seers) of our country should come forward and create awareness about it. Only then will this practice change,” he added.

Rajesh, a member of a puja committee from Noida Sector 76, said: “The mud which is used for making Durga idols in Kolkata is always recommended because it gets absorbed in the water. Idols made of Plaster of Paris are not good because they release a lot of chemicals. The government should make alternate arrangements for immersion of idols.”

(IANS)

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Delhi Citizens Try out Oxygen Bar as Pollution Chokes them

Gasping for Air, Delhi’s Residents Try Out an Oxygen Bar

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Delhi Toxic Air
An elderly Indian woman seeks alms as youth wearing pollution masks walk through a shopping area in New Delhi, India. VOA

By Anjana Pasricha

As Delhi chokes on air so dirty that many struggle to breathe or develop niggling coughs or far more serious respiratory problems, some residents are heading to an upscale mall for a brief respite.

At the city’s first so-called oxygen bar, they fork out $4 to $7 for a whiff of rejuvenating air.

Among those who get a tube (nasal cannula) tied to their nose for a 15-minute lungful of oxygen is travel agent, Nischay Manchanda.

“Its been quite some time since I have experienced how fresh air feels like, so I saw this place and I thought let’s just try it out,” he told  VOA.

Since the onset of winter, when pollution levels frequently breach the severe category, more customers have been walking into the small Oxy Pure bar that opened earlier this year in the world’s most polluted capital city.

This week, the air pollution index in India’s capital city touched  400, a level at which people are advised to stay indoors. The index measures the particles that become embedded deep in lungs, causing irreversible damage. Anything above 60 is considered unhealthy, and doctors have sounded dire warnings about the dirty air’s impact on public health, saying it can stunt brain development in children or cause lung cancer.

Newspaper vendor Delhi
A newspaper vendor rides his bicycle on a smoggy morning in New Delhi, India. VOA

A spell of rain cleaned up the air somewhat Saturday but experts warned that the city would suffer another episode of toxic smog toward the end of the month and into the new year as temperatures drop and stagnant air traps pollutants low over the city.

“People are coming with problems like eye itching, throat paining or they can’t breathe properly,” Bonny Irengbam, the manager at Oxy Pure, said.

There has been a growing public outcry about the toxic air. Worried parents have even called for a “smog break” in schools every year in November when pollution peaks.

Despite several measures to tackle the air pollution crisis, authorities have barely scratched the surface of the problem.

Calling living conditions in Delhi “worse than hell,” Supreme Court judges, who have been monitoring plans to tackle pollution, chastised city authorities two weeks ago.

“Why are people being forced to live in gas chambers?” a two-judge bench of Justices Arun Mishra and Deepak Gupta asked.

Steps have been taken, including a switch by public transport to cleaner fuel, a ban on the use of dirty industrial fuel, the shutting of coal-fired power plants in Delhi, and construction of new highways so that polluting trucks using diesel do not enter the city.

It has, however, been a case of one step forward and two steps back in a city that has grown at breakneck speed over the last 15 years – 45 million people live in Delhi and surrounding satellite towns. Its fleet of nearly 9 million vehicles continues to grow as the affluent snap up new cars while millions of poor migrants burn polluting fires to stay warm on chilly winter nights. Construction and industrial activity are booming and the number of diesel-powered generators used by factories and offices to make it through power shortfalls, has been growing.

Some people leave the city when it is shrouded in smog.

Sahej Walia, an event manager, said he leaves the city for a few weeks in winter but it is not possible to stay away for three months from November to January, now known as the city’s “pollution season.”

Delhi India Gate
A spell of rain cleaned up the air somewhat Saturday but experts warned that the city would suffer another episode of toxic smog toward the end of the month. VOA

“I was in Goa and the air there was much cleaner, but yeah, once I am back, I could feel the air was bad and my head was spinning all the time,” he said. He walks into the oxygen bar, which he discovered on social media, hoping “this oxygen therapy could help me out.”

Oxy Pure even offers a “pollution special” including five sessions for the price of four.

Foreigners are among those pumping up on oxygen, which comes in flavors such as eucalyptus and lavender.

Inna Ossinkina, a Russian who frequently visits India to study Buddhism, was at the bar not just to escape the pollution but also because breathing the right way ties in with meditation and yoga.

“Ten minutes will not rescue me,” she says,  “I have to then buy a bottle [of oxygen] and go around with a bottle, right?”

As travel agent Manchanda’s session draws to an end, he takes a deep breath.

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“It’s a shame we have to buy air, it’s something that should be there automatically,” he sighs bracing to tackle the smog choked skies once again.

Life for him has changed – a few years ago he says he visited “hookah” bars, now he has to stop by at an oxygen bar. (VOA)