Ganesh Chaturthi is celebrated with great passion and emotion in many parts of the country and people participate in it with gusto. The festival generally falls on the fourth day of the second fortnight in the month of bhaadrapada in the hindu calender and generally lasts 10 days with the visarjan or immersion of the Ganesha idols with colorful affairs, music, dancing and chants of devotees.
Widespread campaigns are already on for ecofriendly Ganesh Chaturthi festival but still a large section of the society is unaware of the environmental damage caused by Plaster of Paris idols and chemical paints. The visarjan leaves a lasting impact on the water bodies and surrounding environment. For the past few years, the adverse environmental impacts of idol immersion on local water bodies and water quality of surrounding areas are worsening at an alarming rate.
Visarjan of around 200,000 idols every year can pollute water bodies and have an abiding impact. Traditionally clay was used to make the idols which dissolves within few hours after immersion but now a days PoP (Plaster of Paris) and other synthetic materials are used. PoP cantains calcium sulfate hemihydrate which do not completely dissolve in water and in the process pollute the ponds, rivers and other water bodies and lead to environmental pollution.
The color and paints used for decoration contain harmful chemicals like arsenic, lead, mercury and other toxic metals which seeps into water and adds to the acidic content of water and killing of aquatic flora and fauna. It can also cause skin diseases in humans. Careless dumping blocks the natural flow of water and results in stagnation, reduced oxygen level, breeding of mosquitoes and affects our ecosystem.
Idols are not immersed alone: they are decked up with heavy metal jewelry, thermocol, plastic flowers and numerous other materials. When immersed, all this waste ends up in water bodies adding more strain to the already polluted rivers and lakes.
What needs to be done for eco-friendly Ganesh Chaturthi
1) Use eco-friendly clay idols painted with natural colors or one could bring home an idol of Tree Ganesha made up of red soil, organic fertilizer, natural color and seeds. This unique idol is designed to grow into a tree after immersion.
2) Use the same idol made of metals such as copper, brass, etc., every year and immerse a betel nut instead to symbolically complete the ritual.
3) Immerse the idols in artificial tanks instead of natural water bodies.
4) Make greener choices for selecting decorating items. There are many choices available today that are bio degradable and nonpolluting.
5) Creating awareness among people
6) Government has imposed ban on PoP idols and released guidelines for clay idols. Several organizations and NGOs are working hard to make people aware of harmful affects of materials used in making idols.
We all need to realize that it is important to worship and celebrate every festival but its also equally important to think about the environment consciously. We cannot make our deities happy by destroying their most beautiful gift i.e. nature.
So this year let’s do our bit for the environment by celebrating green Ganpati Festival and make Ganpati and mother earth happy.