For Ganeshotsav, students in the city are rooting for eco-friendly ways to welcome the God of wisdom. While some are spreading awareness on environment-friendly alternatives to celebrate the city’s favourite festival, others are busy making water-soluble idols with materials such as clay and cow manure.
Students of KPB Hinduja College, who had participated in a beach cleaning exercises after the festival last year, have decided to address the problem at its root. They are spreading awareness among the public on the ill-effects of plaster-of-paris idols on the environment.
“Last year, the students were shocked at seeing half-immersed idols floating in the sea. The colour of the water at Chowpatty had changed to grey. One could see oil from chemical paints (which contain lead and mercury) in the water,” said principal Minu Madlani. The students have now started a social media campaign to promote idols made of cow manure. “They are educating the teachers, their parents and people in their communities apart from putting up posters in and out of the college campus,” said Madlani.
School students, on the other hand, dug their hands in mud to make water-soluble idols. Students of Children’s Academy at Malad were awarded the first prize for their idols at a workshop held by non-governmental organisation Young Environmentalists. The workshop at Powai saw participation from several schools in the city including the Powai English School and Hiranandani School.
“Students made idols out of clay from Powai and Mithi rivers. The hands-on art workshop was a fun way for students to learn about benefits of water-soluble idols,” said Elsie Gabriel, founder of the NGO. The EcoGanesha workshop was a part of the academic syllabus for the schools. These idols made by students were not only water-soluble but could also grow into plants. “The idols have seeds embedded inside and can be immersed in a flower pot,” said Gabriel. Prathamesh Jain of Children’s Academy, Malad, who won the first prize for his small Ganpati idol. He said, “I made a small idol so it would have lesser impact on the environment.”
The students emphasised on use of natural colours and flowers for decoration.
Sudha Shanbag, principal of Children’s Academy, Malad, said, “It is commendable that students are environment-conscious at such a young age.” She said it was important to sensitise students about the environment.
Apart from idols, students are also urging devotees to convert the nirmalya (flowers, fruits and leaves offered to deities) into vermicompost. At the end of the festival, many school and college students will gather at different immersion spots for a clean-up campaign.