What Ganesh Chaturthi Left Behind

Posted on September 12, 2016 in Environment, PhotoNama

By Rajkanya Mahapatra

Ganesh Chaturthi is celebrated fervently every year in various parts of the country, especially Maharashtra. The festival marks the birthday of Lord Ganesha and lasts for 10 days.

Grand processions leading to large water bodies are how Ganesha idols are bid farewell. The cause for worry for several years has been the amount of pollution both, land and water that’s caused during and on the day, the festival ends.

Huge amounts of waste is generated from the 10-day long festival. From flowers, fruits, incense sticks stuffed in polyethylene bags, idols made of Plaster of Paris that are toxic for under-water ecology, all go straight into local water bodies.

Since Plaster of Paris is not made of naturally occurring substances and is actually calcium sulfate hemi hydrate or (CaSO4, ½ H2O). It can take somewhere from several months to years for an idol made of PoP to completely dissolve in water.

To add to the problem, the idols are often decorated with paints heavy on lead and mercury which once immersed adds to the ongoing process of destroying the flora and fauna of the water body.

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Source: phanitrivedi/Twitter
NOIDA, INDIA - SEPTEMBER 27: Devotees prepare to immerse an Idol of Hindu Lord Ganesha in Yamuna River on the last day of the Ganesh Chaturthi festival at Okhla, on September 27, 2015 in Noida, India. Ganesh idols are taken through the streets in a procession for immersion in a river or a sea, symbolising a ritual seeing-off of his journey towards his abode, taking away with him the misfortunes of all mankind. It is said that after the Immersion of idol, Lord Ganesha residing in the idol, who listened to the prayers and request of his devotees for ten days, returns back to his heavenly abode. Despite recent orders from National Green Tribunal against putting non biodegradable material in water bodies, hundreds of plasters of Paris idols were immersed in water bodies across the city. (Photo by Sunil Ghosh/Hindustan Times via Getty Images)
Source: Hindustan Times/Getty Images

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Source: phanitrivedi/Twitter
Idol immersion during Ganesh Chaturthi
Source: Andres Romanos/Flickr
NOIDA, INDIA - SEPTEMBER 27: Waste floating after immersed Idols of Hindu Lord Ganesha in Yamuna River on the last day of the Ganesh Chaturthi festival at Okhla, on September 27, 2015 in Noida, India. Ganesh idols are taken through the streets in a procession for immersion in a river or a sea, symbolising a ritual seeing-off of his journey towards his abode, taking away with him the misfortunes of all mankind. It is said that after the Immersion of idol, Lord Ganesha residing in the idol, who listened to the prayers and request of his devotees for ten days, returns back to his heavenly abode. Despite recent orders from National Green Tribunal against putting non biodegradable material in water bodies, hundreds of plasters of Paris idols were immersed in water bodies across the city. (Photo by Sunil Ghosh/Hindustan Times via Getty Images)
Source: Hindustan Times/Getty Images
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Source: phanitrivedi/Twitter
MUMBAI, INDIA - SEPTEMBER 6: An idol of elephant-headed Hindu God Ganesha floats after it was immersed in an artificial pond during 1 & 1/2 day of Ganesha Visarjan at Sion on September 6, 2016 in Mumbai, India. Ganesh Chaturthi is the festival celebrated by Hindus across the world in the honour of Lord. During the festival, local communities put up public pandals for mass worship, while families bring home small clay idols to pray. When the festivities end, the idols are immersed in large bodies of water. (Photo by Kunal Patil/Hindustan Times via Getty Images)
Source: Hindustan Times/Getty Images

There are several eco-friendly ways that can be adopted to prevent reckless polluting of water bodies.

  • One could reuse the same idol every year and immerse a betel nut instead to symbolically complete the ritual.
  • Making idols out of naturally occurring materials like Clay or Sandalwood paste is always a better option, since the idols dissolve completely in water.
  • Decorating the idols with garlands, paint synthesised from plant pigments and turmeric.
  • Immersing the idols in small, closed tanks than water bodies helps contain the pollution.

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