After having received numerous representations from different state organisations, the Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change (MoEFCC) Friday decided to reverse an order passed by the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) earlier this month, and has now allowed idols to be made with plaster of paris and thermocol for the upcoming Ganesh Chaturthi celebrations and later the Durga Puja celebrations.
“The restriction on plaster of Paris for Ganesh idols has been lifted for one year. Those who have already made their idols for this year’s celebrations will not suffer losses,” said Union Minister for Environment Prakash Javadekar in a tweet.
On May 13, India’s pollution watchdog CPCB had passed an order banning the use of plastic, thermocol and plaster of paris in making idols of gods and goddesses. The CPCB had revised its 2010 guidelines on idol immersion after taking views of stakeholders, especially emphasising use of naturally occurring clay, colours in place of synthetic paints and chemicals for colouring idols.
It said that the use of single-use plastic and thermocol shall not be permitted at all and only eco-friendly material such as straw structure shall be used in making idols or decoration of idols/pandals/tazias in order to prevent pollution in recipient water bodies.
“Idols made up of only natural, bio-degradable, eco-friendly raw material without any toxic, inorganic raw material [such as traditional virtuous clay and mud as well as free from plaster of Paris, plastic and thermocol (polystyrene) should be encouraged, allowed and promoted, and idols made up of plaster of Paris (PoP) shall be banned. Only dried flower components for making ornaments of idols and natural resins of trees may be used as a shining material for making idols attractive,” the CPCB had said in it’s order.
The CPCB has also directed the concerned State Pollution Control Boards (SPCBs)/Pollution Control Committees (PCCs) in states and union territories to conduct water quality assessment of water bodies, preferably in tier-1 cities (having population of more than 1 lakh), at three stages i.e. pre-immersion, during immersion and post-immersion.
It also said the concerned authorities in state governments and UT administration dealing with safety and security in coastal areas shall take care of the necessary arrangements like motor boats with security personnel/home guards with adequate safety equipment to supervise idol immersion activities during festive season.
“As far as possible idol immersion in rivers/ponds/lakes shall be encouraged only at specific designated artificial confined tanks/ponds with liner made with well graded/highly impervious clay or eco-synthetic liner, on the banks shall be promoted. A temporary artificial tank or pond with liner made with well graded/highly impervious clay or eco-synthetic liner (HDPE), and having earthen bunds on the bank of the river/lake/pond shall be created for idol
immersion,” it said in it’s order.
The pollution control body also suggested the charges of hiring agencies to clean-up the waste from the designated idol immersion sites should be collected as “visarjan charges” from every individual citizen or community. These charges were to be utilised to clean-up immersion sites, to manage polluted water from artificial temporary tank/ponds and for environmentally sound management of solid remains of idol.
“We have received many representations from organisations saying that idols had already been made and huge losses would be incurred if this regulation were implemented now. Taking special cognizance of the matter, the Ministry has decided to postpone the regulation to next year,” said a ministry official.
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