As the 10-day Ganesh festival draws closer to its grand culmination, the immersion of Plaster of Paris (PoP) idols in the city’s water bodies has become a major point of concern.
The presence of harmful chemicals and toxic paints in the idols, environmentalists point out, poses a major threat to aquatic life. While green NGOs have for long carried out campaigns to sensitise residents to the benefits of immersing their idols in the specially-constructed tanks along river beds, this year, several political and non-political entities have joined the campaign. From idol-recycling to the usage of Ammonium Bicarbonate to dissolve the idols, many have joined hands to ensure a green and eco-friendly farewell to Lord Ganesh.
Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) leader Nana Walke has undertaken an idol donation drive in Daundh to prevent people from directly immersing the PoP in the river. Walke said he had taken this drive after observing the “pitiable condition” of the river. “The idols, being made of PoP, do not dissolve in the river water while the chemicals tend to destroy the aquatic life,” he said.
Walke and his team of over 30 volunteers now man the ghats of Aundh and urge people to donate the idols post the ceremonial immersion of idols. “The idols are stored in a godown. Next year, the idols would again be offered to the people who have donated them at a discount price,” he said. This way, Walke said, they aim to stop the rivers being polluted. Till date, as many as 500 idols have been collected in Aundh, he added.
If Walke aims to promote idol donation, the Shivajinagar Nagarik Kruti Samiti — a non-political citizens’ movement — has joined hands with the Pune Municipal Corporation (PMC) to promote the usage of Ammonium Bicarbonate. This water soluble chemical can dissolve the idols completely and the resultant slurry can act as a good fertiliser. Manish Shirole of the Samiti said that they have started a WhatsApp campaign to spread the word. “People who are interested can send us a message on our WhatsApp number (+919011112727) and pre-book the chemical. The immersion process can be done in a clean bucket of water itself,” he said. This year they hope to reach over 2,000 households, Shirole said.
Like previous years, the cooperative body of ragpickers, SWaCH, is also actively promoting eco-friendly disposal of Nirmalyas (flowers) and idols. SWaCH volunteers are stationed across the major ghats of the city to help residents. While the Nirmalyas are collected in special containers to be recycled later, the idols are immersed in the special immersion tanks. On Saturday, the cooperative had helped in the collection of 33,160 kg of Nirmalya and 10,494 idols were immersed in the PMC area and 4.5 tonnes of it were collected in Pimpri-Chinchwad and 2,242 murtis were immersed. SWaCH has appealed for volunteers to help them in the drive on the final visarjan day on September 15.
Priya Kathuria, program manager of SWaCH, said the response from people has been very good with some ghats in Aundh reporting 100 per cent rise in both Nirmalya and idol donation. People interested in volunteering can contact Kathuria (+91 91580 07100) or Suchismita Pai (98224 76121).