Immersion of idols and its repercussions

Posted by Pranjal Pratim Dihingia in Environment
October 5, 2017

We always have a gala time during our Indian festivals. But our over-enthusiasm to celebrate often ends up choking the environment.

Since time immemorial, rivers hold a sacred place in the Indian civilisation. Rivers in India are worshipped as a holy divinity by millions of pilgrims. But certain rituals and religious practices of these pilgrims has become a major reason for river pollution.

Dumping of religious items and idols in the river not only causes river pollution but also increases the potentiality of floods.

Recently after the conclusion of Durga Puja in Delhi, the immersion of the idols of goddess Durga, left the river Yamuna in an erratic condition. In fact, the river was already covered with Ganesha idols that were dumped into the river after Ganesh Chaturthi. However, it is not just waste from religious practices that pollute rivers, but industrial wastes as well.

Why Is It a Matter Of Concern?

Idols are constructed with non-biodegradable material like plaster of Paris, baked clay, cloths, small iron parts, bamboo, etc. They are then decorated with different paints such as varnish, watercolour, etc. Paints used to colour these idols contain various heavy metals such as mercury, cadmium arsenic, zinc, chromium and lead. Lead and chromium are also added in the water bodies through sindoor (traditional vermillion worn by married women).

These materials released in the rivers and lakes, result in eutrophication, increase in acidity and heavy metal concentration. This possesses a threat to the marine ecosystem.

Some Guidelines By The Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB)

The CPCB has provided some guidelines on idol immersion that can be summarised as:

– Idols should be made from natural materials as described in the holy scriptures. Use of traditional clay rather than baked clay, plaster of Paris, etc may be encouraged.

– Painting of idols should be discouraged. In case if they’re painted, then natural dyes should be used. Non-biodegradable chemicals should be prohibited.

– Materials for worship like flowers and decorating materials should be removed before immersion.

– Proper idol immersion points shall be cordoned and barricaded. A synthetic liner may be placed in the bottom well in advance.

The Way Forward

Festivals should be celebrated in an eco-friendly manner in order to stop this kind of water pollution. The problem should be effectively addressed and widespread action must be taken at the grassroot level.

Changing policies and laws are not a solution. Rather implementing them with result oriented approach is the hitherto course of action. For this individual and societal norms should be changed with well crafted public awareness efforts.