The Central government has issued a 15-point directive, including cordoning off ghats and imposing a fine of Rs 50,000, to prevent the immersion of idols in the Ganga or its tributaries during festivals, including Dussehra, Diwali, Chhath and Saraswati Puja.
The directive has been issued by the National Mission for Clean Ganga (NMCG) to chief secretaries in 11 Ganga basin states. “No idol immersion into river Ganga and its tributaries and on their banks,” says the directive, which was issued after a meeting between representatives of states and NMCG officials last month. Read in Tamil
Officials from Uttarakhand, UP, Bihar, Jharkhand and West Bengal were present during the meeting, said sources. Apart from these states, the directive has been sent to Delhi, Himachal Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Haryana and Rajasthan.
Sources told The Indian Express that the officials were told to strictly implement norms against the immersion of idols and disposal of puja material in the Ganga and its tributaries, and to make suitable alternative arrangements in an environmental-friendly manner.
Issued under Section 5 of The Environment (Protection) Act, 1986, the directive states: “River Bank and Ghats should be Rs 50,000 fine for idol immersion in Ganga, tributaries: Centre to states cordoned off and barricaded to prevent any stray immersion of idols in the river or its banks. Adequate arrangements should be made for designated idol-immersion sites within the municipal area or bank of river Ganga and its tributaries by constructing temporary confined ponds with removable synthetic liners at the bottom.”
If states: “All concerned state government, authority, board or corporation should ensure that there is no use of synthetic material/ non-biodegradable material, Plaster of Paris (POP), baked clay, resin fibers and thermocol for making of idols. Besides, the use of toxic and non-biodegradable chemical dyes or synthetic paints for painting of idols should be strictly prohibited.”
The chief secretaries of the 11 states have been asked to submit an action-taken report within seven days from the end of each festival. The NMCG has also directed that District Magistrates enforce these directions by ensuring monitoring and enforcement. “If any person violates above directions, then Rs 50,000 as environment compensation should be levied, collected and deposited with State Pollution Control Boards,” the directive states.
According to NMCG officials, the large-scale immersion of idols and puja material in the Ganga and its tributaries during festive occasions, such as Ganesh Chaturthi, Vishwakarma Puja, Durga Puja, Diwali, Chhath Puja and Saraswati Puja, has led to an alarming rise in pollutants.
In 2014, the central government had launched Namami Gange, a flagship initiative “with a Budget outlay of Rs 20,000 crore to accomplish the twin objectives of effective abatement of pollution, conservation and rejuvenation of National River Ganga”. In 2017, the National Green Tribunal banned the disposal of any waste in the Ganga.