Every year as Durga Puja celebrations take place across the country, a festive mood permeates the atmosphere. There is fun and frolic everywhere with Didis and Dadas, Didimas & Dadus, Maashis & Meshos heading out in their best to seek the blessings of Durga who is splendidly created in a variety of avatars. Though the emotional, cultural, social and ritual outpouring is simply amazing, it gets a bad blotch when the idols of Durga and her children are taken for immersion.
Just a month back, post Ganesh Chaturti, the banks of the Yamuna in the national capital Delhi, was littered with idols and offerings that was a sore to the eyes. Not just across Yamuna, majority rivers across Maharashtra were littered with Ganesh idols, that apart from being made of Plaster of Paris (POP) that doesn’t dissolve in water, was laced with harmful chemicals like mercury, cadmium and lead, a toxic concoction for the millions of marine organisms whose lives will be choked out for certain.
The sad part wasn’t that the authorities didn’t do anything, but that the countless hordes of devotees didn’t think twice before polluting critical lifelines of their state. After all if ‘Swachch Bharat Abhiyaan’ can’t lead to an increased sense of responsibility and empathy for human and animal life, then the whole idea is nothing more than an eyewash. Just to give everyone an idea, in 2015 as per Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) records, almost 12,000 idols were immersed in the Yamuna leading to release of 32 tonnes of paint and 9.8 tonnes of varnish, so much so that if a fish were allowed to swim in the river, it would die of heavy metal poisoning within a few seconds. The oxygen levels in the river was worsened furthermore.
Fortunately, this year authorities across the nation have decided to let go of their apathy and put in place safeguards to ensure that religion doesn’t outweigh environmental responsibilities. To this effect, the Jamshedpur Durga Pujo Kendriya Samiti is aiming to make their Pooja plastic free in every possible way-from providing bhog pots in jute or cloth bags to making sure that Pooja volunteers carry cloth bags to the Puja venue. Some Puja Samitis have agreed to even make the Durga idol using naturally available topsoil so that it easily dissolves in water and doesn’t turn into an ecological hazard.
Even individual effort goes a long way. Mumbaikaar Rintu Kalyani Rathod’s 35 kg Chocolate Ganesh idol is a unique initiative that seeks to tackle the problem of idol immersions polluting river bodies in a unique way. After 50 hours of hard work, Rintu came up with this innovative idol which on the day of the Visarjan, instead of dumping into the river, she drowned in a tub of milk and gave the godly chocolate milk to underprivileged kids thereby setting a trend for an ecological Ganesh Mahotsav with a humane and environment friendly touch.
In Delhi, after much cajoling, 12 Puja committees in C R Park, GK-1&2 amongst many others have agreed to perform Visarjans (Immersions) of the idols in the neighborhood itself in big artificial ponds created in joint co-operation with the Delhi Jal Board (DJB), so that the Yamuna isn’t polluted.
Only when the sense of environmental responsibility becomes a pan India and a global phenomenon can ecological degradation and pollution be prevented. Otherwise, a parched earth devoid of the elixir of life- water, won’t be just a pseudo-science idea but a living nightmare.