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.
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.
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)