Ecofriendly and Festive: Ganesh Chaturthi’s Environmental Impact
As written in an article of The Hindu, “once a fairly quiet, mostly private practice, Ganesh Chaturthi now involves large, public festivals in many parts of the country”. Ganesh Chaturthi is undoubtedly one of the most widely celebrated festivals in India, which brings joy and imbibes a festive spirit among innumerable people. However, with these festivities arrives the inevitable destruction of the environment; just like how Diwali, albeit a joyous occasion, contributes to the air and noise pollution of the nation, Ganesh Chaturthi celebrations too exacerbate the environmental and ecological conditions of India. And in this case, it is the widespread case of idol immersion that is adding to the predicament of Indian water bodies and aquatic life.
Idol immersion is known for harming the PH levels of water, and can be toxic to marine life. This consequently leads to disruptions in the natural food chain, and can altogether have catastrophic consequences on the immediate and surrounding environment; tangible consequences of this prevalent practice are apparent in many cities in India. Moreover, as reported by a former article of The Hindu, ‘a team sampled water repeatedly from different parts of the lake, including one spot “immersed with hundreds of multicoloured idols of Lord Ganesh and Goddess Durga”, and another near “the outfall of black-coloured, untreated raw sewage containing a collection of industrial effluents’. These chemicals are then consumed by the unsuspecting aquatic life, whose remnants linger throughout the course of the food chain, ultimately impacting the health of human beings as well.
So, in order to curtail the ubiquity of this practice, the denizens of several Indian cities have taken initiative that shows itself in many, vibrant forms. The Bruhat Bangalore Mahanagara Palike has designated a fixed number of lakes and tanks within the city for citizens to carry out the process of idol immersion. Moreover, numerous environmental reforms are taking place within the city, pertaining to the issue of immersion. The NGO Samar Pana has also taken the initiative of spreading awareness among school children across Bangalore, regarding the usage of eco-friendly Ganesh idols which dissolve after a mere two hours of immersion. In Madurai, eco-friendly idols have become the norm; the Sprouts Environment Trust, founded by Anand Pendharkar, is creating fish-food idols that are nine inches in size, made with river clay and eco-friendly substances like turmeric, kumkum, multani mitti and red earth. As said by Pendharkar, “we are also trying to promote smaller idols so that impact is less on water bodies”.
Furthermore, even in Pune, action in being taken to reduce the practice of idol immersion, with the target of reducing water pollution. As said by Omkar Joshi, a resident of Kothrud, “we have one permanent big Ganapati idol which is never immersed. But we carried out a symbolic immersion of smaller idol in a bucket within our society itself. Previously too, we immersed our society idols in a corporation tank but never in a river or lake”.
Providing limits on the practice of idol immersion and encouraging reform can certainly help the environment by leaps and bounds. Festivals are times of joy, during which we appreciate all that has been given to us. Harming the environment and other living beings contradicts the very purpose of religion and festivities, and ought to be reduced at all costs. All in all, there is no doubt that the positive impact these innovative measures can have can definitely succeed in making Ganesh Chaturthi a festival more favourable not only for us people, but also for the environment.
[Image Attribute: Shutterstock]