As Diwali comes closer, a housing society in suburban Mumbai has decided to make the festival more meaningful, by going for eco-friendly celebrations. The Panchwan Complex Housing Society in Borivli West has requested its residents to minimise the use of firecrackers, and the members are getting together for a community celebration involving workshops, traditional lamps and colourful rangolis.
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Shobha Prabhakar, a committee member, says the idea for a green Diwali emerged from a sense of responsibility towards the environment. “Diwali is the festival that brings good luck to all. Diyas should not only enlighten our surroundings, but also dispel the darkness of poverty and ignorance,” she says.
Members of the society have asked children to stay away from firecrackers, and have instead organised a series of competitions and workshops for them, centered around making posters, lamps, and other activities.
“An expert will guide children on how to make lanterns,” says Shailesh Rasal, another member.
Through several discussions, society members arrived at a consensus that over the years, the festival of lights was slowly but surely damaging the environment. “So this year, we thought we could make the celebration one-of-a-kind, by minimising firecrackers and enjoying a community celebration,” says Prabhakar.
Chitra Hariharan, the festival committee head at Panchwan Complex, says the 200 families residing in the eight wings of the society are all uniting for the initiative. “We will light up the whole colony with more than 4,000 diyas on Sunday and Monday. These will be earthen diyas made by Indian artisans. Every part of the colony will be covered with numerous rangolis. No Chinese lanterns will be used. Also, flower decorations will be used across the society,” she says.
The society was also spurred on by the need to show children the way forward. Rasal says that the best way to teach the right values to children is to set an example.
“If we want them to recycle products, we have to make sure we do it first. If we want them to use fewer resources, we need to do the same. ‘Habits are caught, not taught’ rings truest for eco-friendly behaviour,” he says.