?Indian calendar is filled with lots of festivals and holidays considering different religions. Few days ago, Ganesh Festival or locally known as “Ganesh Chaturthy” was celebrated all over India and also abroad in some parts where majority of Indians are living. Originally it was celebrated by every hindu religious person by establishing a small idol of lord Ganesha in their homes and by offering prayers daily with their family and friends for 10 days.
But during British rule, to encourage the fight for freedom among the people, one of the great Indian freedom fighter-Lokmanya Tilak used Ganesha Festival as a hidden way to gather people and to encourage them for the fight for freedom. After that, Ganesha festival became a big public event. Initially, it was celebrated only in the Maharashtra state of India but slowly it has spread all over the India.
Even after the freedom from British rule, Ganesh festival is used as a noble cause to gather people and spread the awareness about different national issues through different symbolic imitations of historical or current political, environmental issues along with the idol of Ganesha. The organizations of youngsters, who will present a good message with most effectively and environment friendly gets award from the city counci The Environmental Impact of Ganesh Chaturthi
To be able to choose the most appropriate ecosensitive solution it is important that we understand the environmental impacts of Ganesh Chaturthi. These can be summarised to be the following: 1. The water pollution caused by the immersion of Plaster of Paris idols into natural water bodies. 2. The water pollution caused by chemical paints used on these idols. 1. The waste generated by the non biodegradable accessories used during the worship. 2. Noise pollution 3. Traffic congestion 4. Increased consumerism
Amongst these the first two can be partially resolved by a shift to eco sensitive materials and practices. Water Pollution: The Issue For some years now we have been observing a growing awareness about the water pollution caused by the immersion of Ganesh idols made out of Plaster of Paris, in natural water bodies such as lakes, rivers and the sea. PoP is not a naturally occurring material. Plaster of Paris is a calcium sulfate hemi-hydrate : (CaSO4, ? H2O) derived from gypsum, a calcium sulfate dihydrate (CaSO4 , 2 H2O), by firing this mineral at relatively low temperature and then reducing it to powder.
While idols made out of naturally occurring clay ( shaadu in Marathi) dissolve within hours of immersion in water, PoP idols may take anywhere between several months to years to fully dissolve. In addition, when chemical paints are used to decorate the idols, these paints contain heavy metals such as mercury and lead, which seep into the water as the idol dissolves. In Bangalore a study done by the Central Pollution Control Board to assess the impact of immersion of Ganesh idols on the lakes revealed the following: The acid content in the waters increased.
The TDS (Total Dissolved Solids) increased by a 100% The Dissolved Oxygen content increased during the day due to the agitation of waters during immersion and reduced at night when organic discharge increased. The heavy metal content sampling showed an increase in metals such as iron which increased nearly 10 times and the content of copper in the sediments increased by 200 to 300 %. Possible solutions: Since the main issue around water pollution has got to do with the idol immersion ritual, several people are now suggesting a slight variation of this ritual to avoid water pollution. These include: 1.
Immersing the idol in a water tan constructed by the government, instead of directly into natural water bodies. 2. Using only a natural clay idol and immersing it either in the tank or in a bucket of water at home. 3. Immersing a ‘betel nut’ which symbolises the idol and reusing the same idol every year. 4. If one is using a PoP idol, simply sprinkling a few drops of water on it as a symbolic immersion and donating the idol to be recycled for the following year. Appropriate Management of ‘nirmalya’: Along with the idol, there are several accessories used during the worship which are collectively referred to as ‘nirmalya’.
These include flowers, fruits, coconuts, cloth, incense, camphor etc. Further, many people create elaborate temples out of thermocole to houwe their idols. Until some years ago, all these were also immersed along with the idols. In Pune, the municipal corporation has successfully convinced people not to immerse the ‘nirmalya’ into the water. Instead, they have installed large bins shaped as traditional pots or ‘kalashes’ to recieve this nirmalya. While this is a good first step, the appropriate management of the nirmalya is still crucial considering the volumes that are collected every year.
This is a sensitive issue since it involves the sentiments of the worshippers. Possible solutions: 1. Avoiding the use of non biodegradable material such as thermocole altogether. 2. Composting all bio degradable material. 3. Distributing food itmes such as coconuts and fruits among the poor. 4. Recycling flowers to make hand made paper or dried flower products. Despite the growing level of awareness on the environmental hazards of Ganesh visarjan, the negative after effects of the festival are still too prominent to ignore
An increasing number of devotees have switched to celebrating the extremely popular Maharashtrain festival of Ganesh Chathurti in an eco-friendly manner. However, it still leaves out a large population that remains wary of the environmental harms they cause. This in turn has, over the last few years, led to the severe damage of the ecological balance of the city’s coastline. A lot has been done to create awareness and implement preventive measures, but with the numbers involved, these efforts have not had an impact. Also, being a sensitive issue, activists tread carefully.
Yet it is imperative to point that most environmentally-harmful practices are products of the last couple of decades. Here are some of the most damaging consequences of the city’s most favourite festival: Plaster of Paris Idols The most damage perhaps arises out of the idols made out of Plaster of Paris (PoP). E-coexist. com explains, “PoP is not a naturally occurring material. While idols made out of naturally occurring clay (shaadu in Marathi) dissolve within hours of immersion in water, PoP idols may take anywhere between several months to years to fully dissolve.
In addition, when chemical paints are used to decorate the idols, these paints contain heavy metals such as mercury and lead, which seep into the water as the idol dissolves. ” Decorations used at the Nirmalya or place of worship Another potential threat arises from the use of non-biodegradable products used to decorate the place of worship. Many a times, even those who opt for an eco-friendly idol, tend to use objects such as thermocol, plastic and chemical paints for the purpose of decorating their place of worship, which create issues of waste management.
What is worse is that some even tend to immerse these decorations along with the idol. “In Pune and Mumbai, the municipal corporations tell people not to immerse the ‘nirmalya’ into the water. Instead, they have installed large bins shaped as traditional pots or ‘kalashes’ to receive this,” informs e-coexist. com. Visarjan or Immersion With the number of idols involved and their competing sizes, the action of idol immersion itself, is extremely harmful to the environment. So even those with eco-friendly idols end up contributing to the excessive materials added into the water bodies causing unintentional damage to the ecosystem.
To add to that, non-biodegradable idols can block the natural flow of water bodies, allowing stagnation. A set of guidelines issued by the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) point out, “In the present scenario, metals, ornaments, oily substances, synthetic colours, chemicals are used to make paint and decorate idols for worship and when these idols are immersed our aquatic and surrounding environments get severally affected. ” A related study on lakes by CPCB in 2010 found that: * The acid content in the waters increased
* The TDS (Total Dissolved Solids) increased by a 100% * The Dissolved Oxygen content increased during the day due to the agitation of waters during immersion and reduced at night when organic discharge increased * The heavy metal content sampling showed a ten fold increase in metals such as iron, while copper content in the sediments increased by 200 to 300%. Considering the day-to-day rise of pollution, as a devotee, one can take many precautionary measures to ensure environmental safety during the festive seasons.
Environmental pollution caused by Ganesh Chaturthi festival Widespread campaigns are already on for an eco-friendly Ganesh Chaturthi festival but still a large section of the society are unaware of the pollution and environmental damage caused by Plaster of Paris idols and chemical paints. Some large Ganesha Pandal committees, to attract maximum crowd conveniently forget the environmental impact caused by the idols. In 2009, date of Ganesh Chaturthi festival is August 23. The main pollution is caused by the Plaster of Paris Ganesh idols and the chemical paints used in them.
Courtney from Study Moose
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