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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

Cambodia’s Government To Shut Down A Chinese-Owned Hotel, Suspect To Water Pollution

Overhead footage shot with a drone camera clearly shows a large stream of discolored water snaking through the beach behind the resort and spilling into the sea.

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A screen grab from a video shows an aerial view of what appears to be sewage streaming out of the Sunshine Bay Hotel and Casino on Koh Rong Samloem Island. RFA

An environmental watchdog on Thursday called on Cambodia’s government to shut down a Chinese-owned hotel and casino for pouring raw sewage into the sea off of the coast of the popular resort town of Sihanoukville, following the closure of another on the same island last month.

In a video posted to Facebook, Mother Nature activist Meng Heng said the Sunshine Bay Hotel and Casino is severely polluting the water off of the southern tip of Koh Rong Samloem Island’s Independence beach.

Overhead footage shot with a drone camera clearly shows a large stream of discolored water snaking through the beach behind the resort and spilling into the sea.

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“If we find out they are violating the laws [against polluting the environment], we will ask them to correct the situation,” Pixabay

He noted that the sea near the hotel and casino has “an unusual odor and color to it,” adding that as one approaches the perimeter of the property “we will be left in no doubt as to why this part of the beach receives no tourists.”

While Meng Heng acknowledged that it was impossible to tell whether all of the pollution comes solely from the hotel, it is clear that “large amounts of sewage are being dumped onto this part of the beach on a daily basis.”

In mid-March, officials ordered another Chinese-run facility of Koh Rong Samloem—the Jin Ding Hotel and Casino—to shut down, citing multiple violations by the casino of the law, the playing of loud music on the beach, and the promotion of illegal online betting games.

The closure followed accusations that the resort was ruining the beauty of a local beach by pouring raw sewage into the sea, prompting complaints by area residents and inspections by authorities.

At the time, Leang Sopheary—a youth volunteer who visited the island in February and posted photos of the polluted water on social media—called on authorities to examine larger areas of beachfront now also under threat.

Another environmental activist, Thorn Ratha, called for a “serious punishment” for the Jin Ding’s owner, as well as an investigation into any government official “who might have been involved” in turning a blind eye to the violations.

Call for closure

In Thursday’s video, Meng Heng noted that on March 26, Minister for Urban Planning Chea Sophara had said in a statement posted to his Facebook account that in the aftermath of the Jin Ding’s closure “Sihanoukville no longer has any dirty water entering its beaches and sea,” but the activist questioned whether the minister had actually sent anyone to inspect the area before making such claims.

He urged Prime Minister Hun Sen’s government to act against the ongoing problem of pollution in the area, starting with the Sunshine Bay Hotel and Casino.

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He said authorities are targeting serious polluters first, and that they will issue warnings to any buildings found in breach of the city’s regulations before punishing them for continued violations. Pixabay

“Will Hun Sen’s regime dare to also shut down another Chinese business, the massive Sunshine Bay Hotel and Casino, if it finds that it is also spewing raw sewage onto the sea, in much larger quantities than the one in Koh Rong Samloem,” he asked.

On Thursday, Sihanoukville provincial spokesman Or Saroeun acknowledged to RFA’s Khmer Service that “sewage is a problem,” but said Sihanoukville city officials are “working to resolve the issue.”

He said authorities are targeting serious polluters first, and that they will issue warnings to any buildings found in breach of the city’s regulations before punishing them for continued violations.

“If we find out they are violating the laws [against polluting the environment], we will ask them to correct the situation,” he said.

Also Read: “We Got in Line And Handed Them The Money,”Cambodian Migrants Heading Home for the Holidays

“We want investors to bring development, but we don’t want them to harm the environment.”

Chinese investment has flowed into Sihanoukville in recent years, but Cambodians regularly chafe at what they say are unscrupulous business practices and unbecoming behavior by Chinese residents. (RFA)