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Post Ganesha Chaturthi: Delving on eco-friendly alternatives

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By Ila Garg

Every year, Ganesha Chaturthi is celebrated across the nation with great pomp and show. It is a 10-day festival that Hindus celebrate with great fervour during the month of Bhadra (23 August-22 September) in accordance with the Hindu calender. The preparations begin months ahead of the event as hundreds of artisans start making Ganesha idols and paint them in beautiful colors. Many tourists too love to visit India to witness the proceedings of Ganesha Chaturthi as the excitement that this festival brings with itself is unparalleled.

2015-09-21_0433Streets of Mumbai go berserk as innumerable hues and countless tunes take over to celebrate the birthday of our elephant-headed God, Ganesha.

However post festival, the water pollution caused by immersion of idols cannot be ignored. The idols, made up of toxic materials like Plaster of Paris, cement, plastic, and clay do not dissolve in water easily and later they create a layer on the water surface. This layer then cause breathing and surviving difficulty for fish and other aquatic creatures. And, that’s not all! The paints used to colour the idols contain mercury and lead. The plastic and cement used in the idols takes months to dissolve and yet the residue is left lurking near the debris. Also, the water’s acid content increases post the festival due to the immersion of idols. This polluted water not only hits the flora and fauna adversely but also causes diseases like skin irritation and others.

After the immersion, no steps are taken to clean the water so the pollution aggravates the problem. The Yamuna River in Delhi suffers to a large extent due to the immersion of idols. “Even after the immersion, no one from the (municipal) corporation comes to clean the riverbank. 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.

Rajesh, a member of a puja committee from Noida Sector 76, said, “The clay 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 Ganesha idols.”

This problem has persisted for many years now. The number of idols immersed increases every year. This year, the 10-day festival that ended on September 18 saw at least six lakh idols immersed in small lakes, rivers, and seas across Maharashtra. Many more idols were immersed nationwide. Imagine the amount of pollution that this would cause due to the toxins used in the idols!

“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. Every year the Yamuna gets dirty during Ganesha 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. The sages and seers of our country should come forward and create awareness about it. Only then, this practice would change for the better,” said Somesh Lal, an engineer and a member of the puja committee in Delhi.

On September 16, the National Green Tribunal (NGT) came out with an order to ban the immersion of idols made of plastic and Plaster of Paris. As awareness is finally spreading, people have started working towards finding eco-friendly alternatives of celebrating Lord Ganesha’s birthday. Many organizations have addressed this issue and are actively coming up with eco-friendly Ganesha idols that are made of biodegradable materials and thus they can be safely immersed in the water. They also encouraged people to immerse the idols in tanks instead of rivers or seas to keep a check on the pollution.

In this regard, while on one hand a Mumbai-based NGO launched the #GodSaveTheOcean campaign, on the other hand, a Bengaluru-based organisation, ‘To Make a Difference’ (TMAD) manufactured 9-inch long eco-friendly Ganesha idols and home-delivered them to several houses this year.

Recently, the Human Resource Development Centre also started a Skill Development Scheme under which a small group of women made idols using bio-degradable materials. Two self-driven citizens of India– Shashi Shah who is an IT consultant and a Bengaluru-resident along with his friend Subru– started a company called Mudpiez this year. This company delivers ocean-friendly Ganesha idols and also offers to pick the idols for the immersion to ensure that the idols are immersed in an eco-friendly manner and not merely dumped in lakes, rivers, and seas. It is indeed a welcome move.

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www.hungryforever.com

The eco-friendly Ganesha idols have been discussed upon a lot of times in the past but this year, we saw the execution of the idea. However, what came across as the most innovative way of celebrating an eco-friendly Ganesha Chaturthi was the idol that was made up of chocolate. A Mumbai-based baker Rintu Kalyani Rathod became an inspiration when she chose to make a 38 inches tall Ganesha idol with 35 kg of chocolate. It took her 50 hours to do so. What she did next is perhaps the most-amazing part of this whole idea. She immersed the chocolate Ganesha idol in milk and then she distributed it among hundreds of underprivileged kids. This served two purposes; firstly, it didn’t cause any pollution and secondly, by spreading happiness among the poor kids, she earned a lot of love and blessings.

Next year, for Ganesha Chaturthi, let us bring eco-friendly Ganesha idols to our homes and save the environment without hampering the festivity.

(With quotes from IANS)

Next Story

Water Pollution Threatens Nearly All Globally Agreed Development Goals

This study was a huge wake-up call to us about the quality of water worldwide

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Water Pollution, Globally, Development
FILE - A fisherman dangles his line to catch fish in polluted water off Beirut's seaside Corniche, Lebanon, June 23, 2019. VOA

Water pollution threatens nearly all the globally agreed development goals to end environmental destruction, poverty and suffering by 2030, economists warned in a report Tuesday, citing the largest-ever database on the world’s water quality.

The World Bank report warned of the ripple effects of water pollution on the health, economies, education and agriculture of rich and poor countries alike.

“This study was a huge wake-up call to us about the quality of water worldwide,” said Richard Damania, World Bank economist and one of the study’s authors.

“The world tends to focus on water quantity such as floods and droughts, but this report focuses on the more invisible threats — the effects of pollutants impacting global water quality,” Damania said.

Water Pollution, Globally, Development
Water pollution threatens nearly all the globally agreed development goals to end environmental destruction, poverty and suffering by 2030, economists warned. Pixabay

The 193 United Nations member states agreed on Sept. 25, 2015, to a lofty 15-year agenda of 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), with 169 targets aimed at helping everyone live healthier, more prosperous lives on a cleaner planet.

SDG 6 refers to clean water and sanitation for all, but the U.N. World Water Development Report found about three out of 10 people — 2.1 billion — did not have access to safely managed drinking water at home in 2015.

In sub-Saharan Africa, coverage was only 25 percent.

“Chemical contamination such as arsenic in Bangladesh, mercury in Maputo and fluoride in parts of Kenya are major concerns,” said Neil Jeffery, the CEO of water rights group Water Sanitation for the Urban Poor (WSUP).

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“Clean water brings dignity. Entire communities are trapped in a vicious cycle of poverty, with a lack of basic water and sanitation impacting health, school attendance and livelihoods,” Jeffery told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

Information key

The World Bank report used satellite data and artificial intelligence and machine learning to analyze nitrogen, salt and oxygen levels — water health markers — of water globally.

“Pollution affects countries both rich and poor. It is just the cocktails of chemicals that change,” Damania said. “Plastics and pharmaceutical contaminants are problems everywhere.”

Water Pollution, Globally, Development
The World Bank report warned of the ripple effects of water pollution on the health, economies, education and agriculture of rich and poor countries alike. Pixabay

Ripple effects of consuming pollutants include childhood stunting, infant mortality, lowered economic activity and food production.

“Information is the first step,” said Damania, in league with water rights groups.

By way of example, Jeffery cited that “informed consumers can make decisions to keep rubbish out of waterways.”

And they can pressure corporations and government “to take the challenge seriously,” said Javier Mateo-Sagasta, senior researcher at the Water Management Institute (WMI).

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The report said that the scale of the problem meant there is “no silver bullet,” but Damania remains optimistic that “social movements, political and corporate will and new technologies” could still save the threatened resource. (VOA)