The Telangana State Pollution Control Board has declared that some toxic chemicals being used in making Ganesh Idols take several months to dissolve in water and in the process adversely affect the water bodies.
After the formation of new Urban Local Bodies (ULB), the Telangana government has been encouraging the ULB members and officials to visit various parts of the globe to gain knowledge on best practices. This exposure will enhance knowledge, skills and attitudinal change.
After visiting the Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike (BBMP) along with the GHMC Commissioner and a high-level team in February this year, Mayor Bonthu Rammohan praised the practice of protection of lakes in Bengaluru. He explained how people had shifted to worship smaller Ganesh Idols and using specific places (small ponds beside main lake) for immersion. He advised the GHMC authorities to replicate these practices in Hyderabad. He sought people’s participation in making it happen.
Every year, more than 1.5 lakh Ganesh idols are worshiped in Hyderabad. The Hussainsagar lake is the largest where Ganesh immersion takes place in a huge way. Last year more than 50,000 Idols were immersed. Immersion also takes place in 169 lakes in the GHMC limits. Earlier all idols were made from clay and earth, collected from the banks of lakes, rivers and decorated with materials that weren’t harmful to the environment.
But now commercialisation of Ganesh idols has added to the miseries of the environment. The idols made out of Plaster of Paris (PoP) which is not a naturally occurring material and contains gypsum, sulphur, phosphorus and magnesium. The PoP idols take several months to dissolve in water and in the process poison the lakes, ponds and rivers. Also, the paint used to colour the idols contains high toxic elements and chemicals, like mercury and cadmium, which further adversely affect the water bodies.
Last summer Bengaluru experienced 38.9 degrees, hottest summer, in the last 85 years. Experience of rising temperature from the last decade made authorities and people alike concerned and a major chunk of educated people started small initiatives to bring down temperature and protect environment.
Around 30-40 lakes in Bhopal give a special attraction to the city. Greenery is spread around these water bodies. A sub-portion of the major lake (10%) is deemed to arrange for immersion of Ganesh, Mataji idols and other family rituals take place in the specific place without polluting it. Regularly the portion is being cleaned and maintained by the corporation authorities. This practice doesn’t harm the living organisms in the water bodies, where people enjoy boating and fishing.
After the Bordeux city (France) visit, Rammohan showed keen interest in bringing a change among the people for protection of lakes. There was a discussion among media circles and organisers about the height of idols and eco-friendly idols. As it is a structural issue, GHMC started taking steps towards environment sustainability. It is developing 10 small ponds in the corners of water bodies for immersion from the current year.
There is a slight change in the thinking process among Hyderabadis in worshiping earthen Ganesh idols. GHMC authorities, Telangana government, organisers, NGOs etc have to take steps in creating awareness regarding climate change, environment protection and global warming. Incentives like special rewards/awards for earthen Ganesh idols are be given. Competitions are to be conducted among children and young generations on the need for avoiding chemical colours for Ganesh idols.
As the first citizen, the Mayor has shown keen interest in creating awareness on construction of water harvesting pits in April and May. Mega plantation of 29 lakh saplings was taken up under the GHMC and HMDA limits on July 11. Now they are propagating eco-friendly Ganesh idols and protection of lakes. (Writer is a Research Officer, RCUES, Osmania University)