We are sure that many of you have already started planning this year’s Ganesh Chaturthi festival and celebrations with your family and friends. The ten days is all about happiness, delicious food, modaks, music, prayers, blessings and gifts. Whilst it is truly a blissful time for all of us, one worrying aspect of the celebration is the painful view of broken Ganesh idols at immersion spots especially at City beaches on the following days of Ganpati Visarjan and severe damage to our mother nature.
Chemicals, Plaster of Paris (POP) idols, toxic waste and non-biodegradable adornments dumped in the oceans, rivers, lakes, streams, ponds, and even tiny canals are a common sight after the end of Ganesh Utsav. A festival that celebrates morals, virtuousness, prosperity, and righteousness is presently hurting Mother Nature in irreparable ways due to our own blunders in making wrong choices of buying non-eco-friendly Ganesh idols and immersion practises.
Historically, plaster-of-paris was never the choice of idol makers. It is only in the recent decades that materials like PoP, thermocol, plastic etc were introduced in the making of the idols for commercial reasons. These idols are also painted with dyes that contain poisonous and toxic elements like lead,mercury,carbon and cadmium.
Over the years, the size of idols have increased drastically, and so is the amount of toxic waste going into the ocean. Each passing year, we witness thousands and lakhs of dead fish washing ashore days after immersion, creating foul odours lasting for days and harming our health and wellness. Local fishermen are also being forced to go further into deep seas for their daily livelihood catch as aquatic life is declining year-on-year due to marine pollution.
Marine biologists, environmentalists, and nature lovers have been appealing for years to the government to curb the toxic waste making to our water bodies. In May 2020, the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB), a government authority, published guidelines banning the use of toxic materials like PoP, thermocol, and single-use plastic to make idols across India and have encouraged the use of biodegradable and less toxic materials. Unfortunately, the decision to ban was deferred for 2020 and 2021 to save losses of the COVID-19 pandemic-hit economy and industry. Still, we can take our active initiative and contribute to change by buying eco Ganpati idols only.
Facts and figures on use of POP and toxic materials Idols in Mumbai alone during Ganeshotsav.
- On an average a total of 11,000 large (sarvajanik) idols and 1.6 lakh household Ganpati idols are made each year using PoP.
- In the year 2019, 2.11 lakh idols were immersed across 129 spots in Mumbai. The figure was 2.03 lakh in 2018, 1.92 lakh in 2017, and 2.09 lakh in 2016.
- The percentage of eco-friendly idols has risen from 2% to 5% in the last four years, with a maximum increase in eco-friendly paper idols being adopted by mandals.
(Source: BMC, Brihanmumbai Sarvajanik Ganeshotsav Samanvay Samiti)
As devotees of Lord Ganesha, we can bring in exponential change, which is the need of the hour for our mother nature and future generations. Let’s pledge to adopt eco-friendly Ganesh idols and environmentally safe idol immersion practices for a sustainable future.