We all love our Ganesha and happily celebrate him in a grand way across the country every year. On the last day of this ten-day festival, we bid farewell to the idols of the elephant god by immersing them into nearby water bodies. The immersions of the Ganesha idols were not environmentally detrimental until they were clay idols with no paint or glitter. The Ganesha idols these days are made of Plaster of Paris, quoted with layers of synthetic paint and several other non-degradable decorative materials. In our joy of celebrating lord Ganesha, we forget all environmental norms and trash our water bodies with inexcusable amounts of non-degradable trash.
This sparks off a debate on religion vs environment- can anything be done to curb environment pollution caused by religious celebrations?
Celebratory, ceremonial waste of the modern day is nothing close to the natural options used 2 – 3 decades ago. The waste generated today is toxic, non-degradable, and expensive to clean and treat. The Plaster of Paris forms a thick layer in the water bodies thereby steadily contaminating the already polluted waterways of modern India. This leads to several health hazards, loss of biodiversity and most importantly pollutes the water habitat in some cases beyond repair.
All celebrations pertaining to any religion should sincerely take into consideration possible environmental damages. Preventing the damage is a more comfortable option compared to curing it. Not all efforts can be proactive, there needs to be a reactive approach to tackling water body pollution because of the POP idols. One such an effort is the massive voluntary clean up drive organised by the Environmentalist Foundation of India (E.F.I). Across 11 cities in the country E.F.I organised a voluntary drive to remove POP idols from water bodies.
An annual effort aimed at the clearing of POP idols from lakes, rivers and shoreline attracts several volunteers to bring about a change. India’s next-gen is optimistic-realistic and action-oriented. The volunteers and coordinators of this multicity clean up were all in their late teens or early 20s. These young nation builders had no social divisions in mind and were only focused on reviving freshwater bodies. Their idea was to clear out the POP idols and other celebratory non-degradable waste.
Coimbatore: Kumarasamy-Muthannan Lake Clean Up saw 1-ton non-degradable trash being removed from the water body in 2 hours. Young engineers Anandh and Ashwath who led the initiative have been pioneering the cause of reviving this lake for over two years now.
Delhi: Portions of the Yamuna Bank were cleared of nearly two tonnes of non-degradable trash by the volunteers. Ms. Riya who is in her third year of college spearheaded a massive effort in roping in volunteers from all walks of life to ensure a collaborative effort in cleaning the water body.
Before clean up
After clean up
Pune: Gaurav, a student-resident of Pune has put in sincere efforts over the months to ensure that the residents of this knowledge hub proactively volunteer towards reviving the water bodies. His sustained efforts ensured that a ton of garbage from the Mutha riverbanks was removed with support from several volunteers.
Hyderabad: The IT nerve centre of India is also home to some unique lakes. Saathvik, a young nation builder has been working closely with resident welfare groups in Hyderabad city to ensure the revival of the Kapra Lake in the city. His efforts duly supported by adults from the locality ensured the removal of POP idols from the immersion ponds established in the lake.
Pondicherry: Madhan, a young environmental engineer supported by a visiting tourist Zorian, alongside Vimal a nature enthusiast from Pondicherry ensured that many residents of the town extended their support in clearing all celebratory waste from the Rock beach. The joint effort resulted in the clearing of two tons of garbage from the beach.
Bangalore: Lalith Rahul is as worried as all Bangalore citizens are about the city’s lakes. But he doesn’t stop at being worried, he has initiated a campaign of cleaning the Devasandra, Kithaganur lakes. The Ulsoor lake being the hotspot for POP immersions, saw Rahul and his team of volunteers gear up to remove close to half a ton of trash from the prestigious lake in the city.
Chennai: The Foreshore Estate beach in Chennai was abuzz with all immersion efforts. As the idols were immersed a team of young environmentalists such as Shri Krishna, Shanmuganathan and Aravindh Krishnan with a large supporting group of volunteers, ensured the removal of nearly two tons of garbage from the pristine beach.
The municipal corporations, conservancy workers and nature enthusiasts came together to clean up their city post the celebrations. Their love for Ganesha is greater than those who used these POP idols. They removed the POP debris from the water bodies and retained the Ganesha in their thought beyond prayers. A true celebration of the Ganesha was in helping clean up the celebratory waste left behind. These young nation builders have just shown us the way for a greener, cleaner tomorrow.